Relationships Drive Business

Strengthening Customer Engagement to Propel Your Business

When Clients Lash Out August 20, 2009

Filed under: Leadership,Learnings,Strategy,Successes — Carla Bobka @ 2:09 am


rt @gapingvoid: the trouble with clients is that there’s always a “Our lives suck, your life should suck too” subtext going on.

The tweet above came through Tweetdeck as I made coffee this morning. Does it sound like one of your clients? Yeah, me too. Not at this moment, but I’ve had my share.
It isn’t you. They don’t hate you. Misery loves company and if no one will come sit by me, I’ll go lasso someone and rope them in.

Ignoring the screams won’t make them go away, at least not for awhile. And then when they do go, they will take their business with them. None of us can afford that.

This is a moment for you to shine. When you do, you will actually strengthen the relationship, despite the momentary tension. Here are some ideas. Use them all, or a combination.

10 Steps to get Through the When Clients Lash Out
1. Have a meeting; in person whenever humanly possible.
2. Listen.
3. Nod your head while keeping your mouth shut. They want to be heard. Defensiveness will only make the situation last longer.
4. Watch-body language is revealing.
5. Listen for what they aren’t saying-there is subtext and you have to discern what the real drivers are.
6. Inquire-be in a state of inquiry to explore the situation to get at the real problem. Inquiry is different than inquisition. Tone means a lot. Watch the tone of your voice, no matter what the tone of theirs.
7. Restate what they tell you-it proves you were listening and demonstrates you care. Right now that’s a lot of what they are looking for.
8. Explore possibilities-don’t make promises. Explore to create something that works for their real purpose. Neither of you know what that is yet, and that’s OK. Explore enough dark corners and you’ll find the right solution.
9. Create a sense of certainty about when you will be in touch again with an update on the topic. Don’t create artificial deadlines unless you are personally in charge of every aspect of the solution.
10. Don’t go alone. Take someone else along. Their job is to keep you calm. Clarify their role before you walk in. Tell them what to look for in your behavior, and have a signal they can give you to point out when you have reached a state of upset/defensiveness. It can be a hand gesture, a phrase or other body language signal. Their pointing to it will be likely be enough for you to get yourself back in control.

Most important for the meeting: leave your phone in the car. No distractions. (Actually, that should be the case in every client meeting, so if that’s not you now, get there)


One Response to “When Clients Lash Out”

  1. Carla, this is a superb piece. I’m sending it along to all of my Program Managers. Thanks.

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