There are bound to be instances when a client is unhappy with the product, service or experience when interacting with a business. Yet when clients voice their displeasure with your company, that does not mean the relationship is doomed to end entirely or continue with a sour tone. There are a lot of components that make up a client relationship – the marketing and sales work that went into attaining the client, the quality of service you deliver, the potential for future profits, the possible referrals and introductions to new prospects – so it’s vital that you do everything you can to retain these partnerships.

When a client tells you they are unhappy with a service, you must first identify the root problem and the cause for the issue. Take responsibility for the aspects that were in yours or your company’s control and discuss with the client what components were a matter of unrealistic expectations, failure to communicate or some other external factor. Present potential solutions to the problem and determine how you plan to overcome the issue together.

Remember that salvaging the relationship after a mistake is also an opportunity to deepen it. As you work to reaffirm your capabilities and demonstrate for clients that you are committed to the partnership, think of ways you can prove and provide additional value. Be responsive to client complaints. As I discussed previously in The Art of the Client Apology, when you are notified of a problem, act to not only resolve the current issue but address any related aspects that could contribute to future troubles. This shows clients that you are not paying lip-service to the relationship, but are invested in continually improving it.

Learning from the missteps
A company that is dedicated to client service isn’t the one that never makes errors, it’s the one that never makes the same mistake twice. In fact, as I have said before, In Client Relationship Management, it’s OK to Apologize. Most people will forgive a person or a business that missteps if there’s an obvious effort to prevent the same thing from happening in the future. When you run into conflict in client relationship management, turn it into an opportunity to not only prove your company’s value to the client, but to teach yourself or other team members about how to avoid and manage similar situations in the future. For good measure, be sure to investigate the causes of major mistakes and revamp the systems or processes that lead to that error.

What steps have you taken to minimize errors in client service and learn from mistakes when they do occur? Do you have any tips for smoothing over ruffled relationships?