Saving the Bad Apples!

Have you ever had a client that has pushed all the right buttons? One who has done everything in his or her power to get you to explode and say, “You, get out of here – or I’ll__________!!!”

Don’t hide how you feel; learn how to turn the feelings into a productive situation and turn your and their frowns upside down.

Too many times when we are faced with clients that are either angry or dissatisfied with our services or performance we either run from the situations or sweep them under the carpet, hoping that they will never surface again. In both cases, this is not the correct response. Months ago, I wrote an article called “Opening a Can of Worms.” The old article has a direct correlation to managing anger, but most of all, to taking that anger and turning it into true potential.

At times you may say to yourself that it is okay to get rid of a troublesome client. I do subscribe to the philosophy that you need to get rid of the bad apples, but sometimes we can help change those bad apples and save them. You see, when clients have good experiences with a company, they tend to tell three other people about them. Positive word-of-mouth is great for business. However, clients (or ex-clients) who are displeased with a situation tell, on average, 11 people about it. So you can see that it’s often of benefit to turn a displeased client into a pleased one.

Naturally, no one wants to walk into bad situation, but I have found in the years that I have dealt with clients that it is easier to attack a difficult situation immediately than to let it fester and become bigger than it originally was. Always consider the value of your client, your reputation, and your company. I would say it is worth your while to face that angry customer and get the situation resolved as quickly as possible.

Here are nine steps to help you turn that frown upside down.

1. Take care of the situation immediately . Nothing is worse than letting a person’s displeasure fester and allowing him or her to get even angrier. A quick phone call just to say you know about the situation and you intend to handle it may be enough to cool the flames. Then set an appointment to talk in person. I have realized after years of taking both approaches, immediately addressing problems and working with the students’ or clients’ best interest in mind always ends up as a win-win situation.

2. Be sure to show your concern and be genuine . Pretending to be concerned is a very easy way to make your clients angrier. You must take the time to walk the path of empathy and deal with the situation from your clients’ point of view. At that point, make yourself perfectly clear on how you feel or how you would like to handle the situation. Now, don’t get me wrong, you can’t always bow down to a client, but letting the client know that you are on the same team usually helps you to work things out more smoothly.

3. Don’t rush your clients . Be patient and let them vent. Sometimes it just requires listening. It is not all about you and getting the solutions. Sometimes a client just needs to be heard. Never interrupt or shut them down. In many cases, it is best to just listen. If clients are angry they will eventually wind down. In some cases, they’ll realize that they blew the situation out of proportion and they’ll feel foolish. Then they’re likely to accept nearly any solution you offer.

4. Keep calm . Often, in times of anger, people say and do things they don’t mean to say or do. Learn to let those things go. Once, while training with Shihan Grace, he told me you must take things into your mind, but not into your heart. Don’t let people rent space in your heart. Another great quote is “While you are holding a grudge, the person you are holding a grudge on is out dancing.”

5. Ask the correct questions . Your goal in a situation like this should be to get to the bottom of the situation. I learned a long time ago, there is a bit of truth in every story. So even though you may not agree, you should ask yourself “What can I learn from the client?” Your aim must be to discover the specific things that you can do to correct the problem. Try to get precise information about the difficulties the problem caused, rather than a general venting of grievances.

6. Get clients to give you ideas on solutions . Once you have everything out in the open, then you can work together on solutions to get rid of the problem. Hopefully, at this point the clients are willing to work with you. If not, then you should schedule another appointment for a time when they are calmer and ready to cooperate to make the situation better.

7. Agree together on a solution . Once you have identified the challenge and you have talked about solutions, you are now ready to set some in stone. Agree on a course of action that both of you can live with, and then stick to it.

8. Set up a time frame . Once you’ve agreed on a solution, set a schedule and a realistic time frame that you both can happily work within. This will give you both time to work at the situation and fix it. The biggest mistake you can make is to agree to something that can’t be accomplished, just to smooth things over. Honesty is the best policy. Sometimes, even if you can’t work out a solution, clients will be happy because you have been totally honest with them.

9. Live up to your promises . Make sure that your commitments have top priority to you and that they don’t get forgotten. The troublesome situation may not have been that big of a deal to you, but if it upset a client that much it meant a lot to him or her. Validate the client’s feelings by being totally professional. Often, this will create a level of customer loyalty that you could never have imagined.

Turning “bad apples” into “good apples” can be done if you address and solve your clients’ problems in a professional manner. It will help you in the future because clients will recognize that you are approachable and that if anything ever happens again, rather than getting angry they can come right to you and talk to you. Once you’ve fixed clients’ problems, you’ll have earned other opportunities to serve their needs in the future…and the needs of those who’ll be told about how well you handled them. And when you’ve successfully satisfied a difficult client can often be the perfect time to promote alternate programs and to upsell. I like to look at every situation as a way to grow, both financially and spiritually. Learn from your problem situations and you will grow and prosper.

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