Whether you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur, or small business owner, it’s vital for your success to keep your customers and clients happy. When they’re happy, they’re more likely to become brand evangelists, refer you to others, and keep the cash flowing by purchasing your products or services.
Sometimes, however, these clients can get upset because you failed to deliver a project on time of because they couldn’t reach when they had an important question. While you can’t please everyone, if you follow these eight techniques, you shouldn’t have any problems turning that frown upside down.
1. Keep Calm and Listen On
For one reason or another, you’re customer is ticked. And, if you make them go through hurdles like automated messages and trying to find a solution before you know the story, you’re only adding fuel to the fire. That’s why it’s imperative that you listen to them. Even if you believe they’re at fault, don’t let your feelings or assumptions get in the way of hearing their side of the story.
Always remember that just because they customer is furious and has an attitude or is screaming at the top of their lungs they still want a resolution. And you can’t reach that point until you have all the information.
As Jack Schafer Ph.D. writes in Psychology Today, “Angry people are not open to solutions when they are angry because their ability to think clearly is impaired.” Schafer suggests, that “you must remain calm in the face of anger” and "Never try to rationally engage angry people."
2. Earn Their Respect
Earning respect takes a lot of work. But, it’s one of the best ways to make your customers happy - even if they’re furious with you or your business.
The reason? Because respect demonstrates that you value the other person’s values, opinions, and experiences.
I’ve found that the best ways to earn the respect of my customers, clients, and colleagues is by;
- Practice basic etiquette. Always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ showing gratitude, and being appropriate.
- Keep your promises. If you tell a client that you’ll call them tomorrow morning, you better make sure that you deliver. No one likes being lied to.
- Make polite conversation. Pay attention to your body language, actively listen, and be aware of the culture of your client. In some cultures it’s frowned upon if you discuss business immediately.
- Research the person you’re meeting. You don’t need to a hire a profile. Just have a quick glimpse at their LinkedIn profile, for example. This clues you in on their culture, interests, education, and work experience.
- Don’t be reactive. Again, don’t let your anger get the best of you. Stay calm and polite.
- Show an interest in others. Don’t give others the impression that you’re not interested in them. Ask questions, make eye contact, and learn from others.
3. Extend the Olive Branch
When there’s a conflict one of the most effective ways to smooth things over is by making a peace offering.
“I know the peace offering works on clients, because it has worked on me,” says Maribeth Kuzmeski, author of “The Connectors: How the World’s Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life.”
“At one point the relationship my firm and I had with a technology consulting group had turned sour. They had missed numerous project deadlines and just weren’t satisfying my expectations. I stuck with them, though, in hopes of repairing the relationship. Then one day, my contact Jeremy and I discovered we had something in common—a love for hockey! In fact, one day I mentioned that my son’s favorite team was the Pittsburgh Penguins, and that he and I would be watching them play in the Stanley Cup later that evening.”
Kuzmeski adds, “Well, the Penguins ended up winning, and much to my surprise, Jeremy sent my son copies of magazines featuring their big win, a copy of the actual Pittsburgh newspaper from the day they won, and a few other items.”
“None of what he sent cost very much, but the impact of his gesture was significant. My son was beyond thrilled. He couldn’t believe that one of my contacts had sent something for him! As for me, it immediately changed the way I felt about the company. My feeling was, ‘Really, they can’t be all that bad. I mean, they are hockey fans, and they were nice to my son.’ Jeremy may not have known it, but he extended a peace offering that helped preserve my company’s relationship with his.”
Whether if it’s an apology, a coupon, or ordering a pizza for a hungry customer while you’re on the phone with them, even the smallest of peace offerings can make a huge difference in the relationship that you have with your clients.
4. Take Responsibility
Let’s say that you order a pair of sneakers online. It takes over a month for the shoes to arrive. And, when they do, they’re not even the sneakers that you ordered. You’re clearly upset and write an email to the company explaining the situation. Their response is essentially, “We’re sorry that you’re upset.” That’s it. Even though you are able to return the shoes for a refund, would you ever do business with this company again?
However, if the company took responsibility, admitted that they made a mistake, and offered an apology, you may be more inclined to forgive the company. After all, mistakes happen. You just want to know that the company is owning up to their errors.
What if the customer or client is clearly wrong and isn’t rational? You don’t have to accept their bullying. In fact, it may be better to just part ways.
5. Act Immediately
We live in a fast-paced world where complaints are easily shared online through social media and review sites like Yelp. What do you think happens if those claims aren’t addressed? They’re going to continue to grow and haunt your brand for a long time to come.
As soon as you become aware of an issue, take action immediately. Even just informing the client the next step that you’re going to take, like looking into the matter and getting back to them within 24 hours, is enough to appease them and illustrate that you’re not ignoring them.
In fact, according to authors Karl Albrecht and Ron Zemke in Service America;
"Of the customers who register a complaint, between 54% and 70% will do business again with the organization if their complaint is resolved. That figure goes up to a staggering 95% if the customer feels that the complaint was resolved quickly"
6. Involve Them in the Fix
It’s taken a long time for me to come to terms with these, but when you’re being criticized by a client or customer, it’s just a form of tough love. They don’t want to give up on you. If so, they wouldn’t be spending their time reaching out to you. They know that you have potential and they want to live up to it.
Dell’s IdeaStorm does this perfectly. At first, this may appear to be just a site where people tell the company what they’re doing wrong. However, it’s actually a proactive community where customers can share ideas, make suggestions, and complain. This platform is then used to improve the company based on both the positive and negative feedback from customers. By doing so, the customers are actually involved in making the company better.
7. Build a Solid Reputation
Are you a Zappos customer? If so, then you know how amazingly awesome their customer service is. Whenever there is an issue, the company goes above and beyond to keep their customers happy.
If you build that reputation in the first place, they’re going to speak positively about your brand and become your biggest advocates. Also, when you do make a mistake, they’ll probably be more likely to understand that this was just a one-time fluke.
Murray Newlands recommends "don’t forget to follow-up by sending them a quick email, message on social media, or phone call. It’s a simple, but powerful, tactic that proves how much you value their feedback and how seriously you take customer or client care.