Dealing with client complaints is far from a pleasant experience, but it happens to every contractor at some point. The best course of action early on is to learn how to handle these situations in the best possible way with patience and grace – with experience it will become even easier over time.
But let’s say you have one of those on your lap right now and need some help, so how to proceed?
Take a deep breath
The first rule is: don’t take it personally.
Don’t get me wrong, it will always hurt to have someone complain about your service or your company for any reason, but put yourself in the client’s place – if you paid for a service you deemed unsatisfying, you would also have the right to complain.
So take a deep breath and keep it classy. There’s no need to get defensive or aggressive because it will 100% guarantee to make things worse.
Instead, let the client speak about their woes and listen closely. While listening, you can follow the next steps to solve the problem quickly and effectively.
Identify the root of the problem
Your path to success here is to simplify the complaint to the root, the one pain point that leads to the complaint in the first place. With your emotions on the way and the client probably burning your ear with fiery words, it’s easy to lose track of the actual problem.
First, identify the problem. Was it the service? The payment? Is it about someone in our team? A delay? A mistake caused by miscommunication?
Whatever it was, get to it quick, because from here you can actually start reaching a satisfying conclusion. At this point, it’s also preferable to avoid trying to circumvent the issue by shifting the blame – even if you’re right, this will likely only fan the flames.
Instead, focus on figuring out what caused the complaint in the first place, and keep that in mind from now on.
Find a solution
With the root of the problem in mind, it’s time to reach an agreement.
In many cases, this will result in you having to compromise and going the extra mile for the sake of your reputation, but this is more than fair if the client’s complaints are valid to some degree.
It’s also important to make yourself present here, showing up in person to solve the problem if possible. This shows the client that you really care about reaching common ground and does wonders for your reputation as a professional.
Obviously, it would be ideal to not waste any time here (which I’ll get to in a minute) but if you’re trying to solve the problem then you have to go all in and make yourself present.
Act with kindness
Kindness is often enough to defuse an angry client. Instead of adopting their tone, stay cool and listen to their complaints as politely as possible. When it’s your turn to talk, be kind and understanding, making sure to show upfront how you’re committed to help them.
This alone will soften the blow and pacify most clients, allowing you to have a much calmer and thorough conversation with a cool head on both sides.
It can be difficult, after all, we’re human and we all have emotions. Refer back to step one and take a deep breath if you struggle – it might sound silly, but it does help. There’s no reason to jump to conclusions and accusations, this is a client that can still refer others to you if you make sure they’re happy.
Being quick is within the interest of both parties. You probably want to move on from this as soon as possible and the client surely feels the same way. The faster you can get it done, the better for both sides.
It may seem counterproductive at first, but consider that the job isn’t done yet. Push it up on the priority list and give it your full attention before moving on to other projects – obviously, trying not to cause any delays in your next projects.
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