Dealing with Clients
The rise of the service sector in the past decades – advertising, financial services, insurance, transport, real estate, marketing, travel and tourism, for example – has created an array of office jobs that require communication with clients. The competition between companies also resulted in the establishment of customer services, and customer satisfaction has become a major issue, especially nowadays, when news, both good and bad, travels fast not only via the media but also on social networking sites. Therefore, dealing with difficult or very demanding customers has been in focus, in order to protect company reputation. While such situations are very exhausting and require a professional approach, it is also important to remember good customers, whose loyalty is a very important asset. We have compiled useful strategies that can help reduce the stress of dealing with difficult customers, on the one hand, and some tips that will help improve relations with a good customer, as well.
Strategies for dealing with challenging clients
In many cases prevention is better than a cure, especially because challenging clients require far more of your precious time than the time and effort required to try and keep them happy in the first place.
1. Lack of communication can cause misunderstandings that often build into problems. If you keep a record of your meetings or important phone calls, you can follow up with an e-mail to the client, summarizing the main points. This practice not only helps clear up misunderstandings immediately, but your e-mails can be used later as evidence in case the client’s version differs from yours.
2. It is advisable to try and work out any problems with your point of contact. Going directly to their superior is bad manners and will cause resentment, since it will make your main point of contact at the client company look bad to their management. No wonder they’d rather choose to work with another company next time after a humiliating experience.
3. By providing monthly reports of your results and a plan on the next month’s activity will show your client what you’ve achieved and they are also given the chance to make any modifications in advance. This often spares you from facing criticism at the end of the month, especially if changing circumstances that your client forgot to communicate are not your fault.
4. When you realise that there is already a problem, don’t wait for the client to discover it for themselves. It is much better to let them know something went wrong and offer your apologies. Definitely tell them that you are already working to find a solution or present a solution on the spot. Even so, you might have to deal with an angry customer but they will know that you’re doing everything to sort things out.
5. When a problem is solved, follow up with phone calls and e-mails to make sure everything has worked out fine. This will make your client feel valued and you will find out about their concerns before they fire off another angry e-mail.
Strategies for strengthening relations with customers
Customer retention is a major problem for many businesses and an area that needs special attention, because an increase of as little as five per cent in customer retention is thought to lead to as much as a 75 per cent increase in the average business’ profitability. Research also shows that loyal customers spend more and provide free word of mouth promotion to a company.
1. Your customers need to feel you care about them and you can show this by small gestures, like sending Christmas cards (especially a must if you have English-speaking clients), calling, e-mailing or chatting on social media from time to time. It is also a good idea to invite them to new product launches or ask for their feedback on products and services they’ve bought.
2. Keep up to date with your customers’ activity. If you notice they order less frequently or some other negative trend, it is a wise decision to give them a courtesy call to ask why and whether there’s anything they’d like to change. Many customers won’t complain about poor service but just keep quiet and move on.
3. Ask for feedback on your services and your customer service, as well. This is one of the best ways to find out what they’re happy with and what they’re not. By overcoming the bad points you ensure that your customers will have much less reason to leave. In the Internet age a short customer survey is easy to create and circulate and goes a long way.
4. There’s no way avoiding all mistakes, so be prepared to show your client you’re able to resolve their issues fast. Going out of your way to resolve a problem, even if it’s at your own cost, is definitely worth it with a good customer. Research shows that a customer who has had a complaint resolved in a very satisfactory way becomes even more loyal as a result.
5. Show your customers that you care about their business as much as yours.Many clients aren’t good judges of the quality of your work, but they appreciate and value a smooth and thoughtful working process, no matter what service you provide. Also, actual contact in real time greatly strengthens the bonds between people, so don’t rely on electronic communication only.