Sometimes, you or your employees will make mistakes. When a client feels his or her needs have not been met or have been ignored, it’s important to make an effort to restore their confidence in your services and reset the tone of the relationship.
Taking the time to contact an unhappy client and say “I’m sorry” can go a long way in doing that.
Writing for Inc. magazine, Glen Blickenstaff says harboring the concern that apologizing would open up a business to liability will not do much to repair hurt or angry feelings. In fact, that worry may be destructive, driving away clients who could be won back. Blickenstaff explains that customers may be happy or unsatisfied, but there’s an opportunity to convert the latter group by recovering from a situation where the company didn’t “get it right the first time and meet expectation.”
He warns that unhappy customers are much more likely to share their bad experiences publicly, but when the recovery is “done the right way, the customer who has the experience will tell a story. Not how bad their initial experience was but the story of how well they were treated, respected and cared for in the recovery.”
Blickenstaff offers some advice on how to mend a damaged customer relationship. First, try to talk (and more importantly, listen!) to the client and get their side of the story. Give your apology. As he says he does when talking to a customer, “I actually and sincerely convey my regret that we failed them and accept responsibility.” From there, give them a few options that could solve the problem, which makes them feel that they are in control of where the discussion goes next. Finally, follow up. Stay in touch with the client and make sure you “met the recovery expectation,” he adds.
Have you ever had to do damage control after a client expressed his or her displeasure with the quality of customer service? Does your practice have a standard policy for how it responds to and mitigates the fallout from an unhappy client?
As Norm Trainor wrote in The 8 Best Practices of High-Performing Salespeople, “the key to developing and maintaining relationships with your clients is your commitment to providing first-class ongoing service.”
A key in coaching is understanding that when the delivery of service falls short of first class, a heartfelt apology can serve as a re-commitment. It can offer the client proof of another sales best practice: that you will “do what you say you will do.”