A few months ago I had a tough call with one of my clients to discuss some issues that happened over a project. They just so happened to bring up a past project, a project that was a success but did have some hiccups. Since this new project was related to that past project, all of those hiccups came back to haunt me. The Client was upset and was threatening to not renew another contract.

Having a client who dwells on past wrong doings and issues can really hinder business relationships. Some other agencies would probably want to investigate an exit strategy with this type of client. Who wants to work with someone who brings up the past. But if you can take a little time and listen before you start pointing fingers, you can really turn the conversation into a positive one and strengthen your relationship capital.

I spent about an hour or two preparing my thoughts prior to the call. I created a simple bulleted list in response to their issues. My notes were detailed but concise. I took the time to think about the situation and prepare myself for what some would say was a difficult call. Most of all I was brutally honest in my findings. I took the time because I really cared about their relationship. I didn’t do it because I was afraid of losing them but because I cared about their relationship. If they didn’t renew the contract so be it.

The Call

As I listened to my client’s concerns, I was able to digest the problem even more as additional details came up. As I took my notes next to each item I had written down, I realized there were a lot of issues. It didn’t add up. I knew that they were wrong.

Now how do you go about telling someone they are wrong when they are obviously upset? It’s hard to gauge what you say to an individual who’s frustrated, everyone is different, but sometimes you have to just be honest and straight forward. No matter what their response will be you have to be honest. If they don’t listen and they don’t respect what you have to say, then your client doesn’t deserve you.

Once my client was done venting I informed them of the problems we encountered and then proceeded to review the bulleted list that I had prepared for them. I sent them an email right before the call with the information I was explaining. I didn’t once point the finger or blame another person, I took full responsibility for my teams actions and explained the reason for those actions. I informed them of every variable in the equation and I provided detailed reports of the work we did, another reason why you should track your time accurately.

“If they don’t listen and they don’t respect what you have to say, then your client doesn’t deserve you.”

After I was done reviewing the details and providing them with the answers they really needed, the whole mood changed on the call. I then proceeded to tell them that not only would we take care of the issues they are having I would go ahead and fix the problem that happened because of the miscommunication from their side. I said that their relationship was more important to me than having them be upset with us because of a simple miscommunication and misunderstanding.

The Conclusion

The customer was completely wrong, why give them anything in return? The answer is simple, be kind to people even if they are in the wrong and they will remember you for it. Clients are not just buying a product, they are buying an experience. It’s up to you to provide that customer experience they will never forget and it will build long lasting business relationships, which will be valuable relationship capital you can always cash in on.

How do you handle tough clients and keep your relationship capital in place?

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