You’ve worked incredibly hard in order to properly structure and build your business. The word of your services has managed to spread conveniently and you get one gig after another by increasing your customer list. However, that’s when something bad happens – your relationship with a certain client goes south. For some reason, you have disappointed the client and the things are going in the wrong way. Regardless of the reason, the most important task that you now have at hand is to properly mend your relationship. Otherwise, you are actually risking of the word to spread which could cause an avalanche of lost customers.
So, how do you do it? How do you fix a relationship which is obviously broken? Luckily for you, nothing’s ever truly lost. We have 6 steps that you can take into account in order to heal the damaged relationship and get things back to normal. So, without any further ado, let’s go ahead and take a quick look.
1. Recognize the issue.
The first thing that you need to do is to identify the causes which led to the broken relationship. This is particularly important. It’s going to show you the path that you need to undertake in order to begin coming up with a plan to repair the relationship. Regardless of whether there is guilt involved or not, you need to make sure that you know where you stand so that you can move forward with getting the relationship thoroughly fixed. Think of this as building the foundations for your upcoming strategy.
2. Don’t let your ego stand in the way and apologize.
Regardless of whether you are the one who’s faulty of damaging the relationship or it was clearly something that the client did – you need to step up. Come forward, swallow your ego and offer a kind apology. This is particularly critical. The fact of the matter is that this is nothing but business and you can’t let emotions, let alone particularly unhealthy things like ego cloud your judgment and stand in the way of you and your clients. This isn’t your own private life so there is no place for ego or pride.
3. Do not talk down to them.
This goes out to the majority of industries and especially to the recently outburst IT sector. The truth is that you are definitely more aware of what is it that you do than your client – that’s why he’s using your services. But you don’t need to point that out unless it is absolutely necessary. In fact, you should treat them with tremendous amount of respect and never approach them as people who don’t have an idea of what’s going on. That’s a sure deal-breaker and if your relationship is already damaged, that’s one of the cornerstones of your attempts of fixing it.
4. Respond in-kind and timely.
Another thing that gets quite a lot of client relationships on the wrong track is failure to communicate in a timely manner. Regardless of how many clients you have, every one of them should be your priority and if you want to properly fix the relationship with one that you’ve messed it up with, you need to put an emphasis on that fact. Do not delay your answers unless you have a good reason for it – communicate clearly and efficiently – that’s what the client wants. That’s what you should provide him with. You need to show your client that he is of high value to your company, regardless if he really is or not.
5. Fix the real issue.
Sometimes the real issue might be hidden within a number of smaller yet particularly annoying details. Being able to clear your mind and seek out the main cause of the broken relationship is likely to be amongst the most important things that you have to take into account. With this in mind, if you manage to do that, you will definitely win back the trust of the customers for a few different reasons. One, you are definitively showing that you care about your relationship enough to fix the issue on your own and two, you manage to identify critical issues, regardless of how well they are hidden.
6. Acknowledge it when you aren’t right.
This is once again an issue which is tightly related with pride and ego. Once a business starts to run well and to perform properly, there is a very common problem: managers and owners begin to feel as if they are better than their customers. They fail to understand that the only reason for which they are capable of being in the position they are is because of the client in the first place. When you are wrong, you are wrong. Holding to a position out of stubbornness or pride and ego is something that is going to get you on the downhill with a tremendous amount of speed. Keep that in mind.
Maintaining sound relationships with your customers is without a doubt a top priority. However, regardless of how hard you try, there are inevitable circumstances which are going to rough up the journey quite good. That’s when you need to stand stable on your feet, hold on to your policies and do whatever you can to place the wheels back on track.
Sometimes team involvement is inevitable even if it requires communication only with you, not the client. Review the project plan communicated with the client and gather input from every resource. (Handy Tip: For companies using Microsoft Project and Oracle Primavera P6 there are project viewing solutions – Project Viewer and PrimaveraReader, respectably to make sure anyone is allowed to view and analyze organizational change plans without purchasing costly licenses). I believe read only viewers for other project management software solutions are also available.
The most important thing that you need to understand is that the responsibility to mend your working relationships with clients is yours and yours alone. The client can go ahead and replace you with some other company because, let’s face it―the competition is fierce. Even though one client doesn’t make a firm, this might set the stage for more potential complications of the kind and that’s something that you just can’t have. That’s why you should try hard in order to fix every relationship which may have gone south. This way you can guarantee a sustainable business structure which is going to be successful for the long run.
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