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What is the Best Word to Use When Dealing with an Irate Client
The importance of earning trust by always being forthcoming
Yes, it is.
What is the best word to use when dealing with an irate client. That’s not a question. It’s a statement, and just the right kind of statement!
When you ask the question “why” you will almost invariably get an emotional response. “Why are you yelling?” will always incur a pretty nasty emotional response.
When providing any kind of IT service, you may encounter a client who has become frustrated, angry that their problem hasn’t been solved. Perhaps they feel it’s taking too long. Perhaps they’ve decided, with no evidence, that you’re incompetent. Or perhaps they are unhappy with their acquisition of the technology in question, know it was their bad choice, but find you convenient to blame for their mistake.
If you want to light that spark that blows their frustration into full blown anger, just ask a “why” question.
A “what” question prompts a factual response. “What would you like me to do right now?” will usually get you precisely the answer you need most. Your client will tell you exactly what their expectation is. You then have the opportunity to decide you can fulfill that expectation and commit to doing so, or you can attempt to explain why that expectation may be unrealistic. The latter, of course, risks throwing you into an emotional response from your client, but that’s better than misrepresenting the reality of your circumstance.
How to Avoid Creating Irate Clients Altogether
You may find this strategy to be disarmingly surprising.
To avoid creating irate clients, always tell them the bad news faster than you’d tell them the good.
Think about the times your client has called you in the midst of you resolving something for them. Instinctively you know this is not going to be a pleasant call. You just know your client is going to be nasty, perhaps even rude to you. You consider excuses your receptionist can provide to explain why you can’t pick up the phone right now.
Admit it to yourself, you probably even know what they’re calling about. You may have made a completion time commitment that you’ve now missed. Or perhaps you told them you’d provide an answer to a question, but you haven’t as yet. More often than not, when a negative client call comes in you already know why.
So beat them to it.
Yes. More often than not, it’s just that simple. When you call your client with bad news, they’ll almost always accept it, perhaps grudgingly, but seldom angrily. On some important level they appreciate that you’ve stepped up and owned up to the problem. They’ll usually even thank you for letting them know about the problem and any ensuing delay.
To put it all in perspective, you may face the same problem, the same issue, with the same facts. If your client calls you about it, it’s going to be miserable. They’re going to tear into you about it. On the other hand, if you call them about it they’ll receive the same news far more peacefully and with some degree of understanding. Nothing changes except who contacts who first.
Where Does the Anger Come From?
Put most simply, when your client calls to complain it’s simply because you’re not doing your job.
What is your job? Resolving the issue, whatever it may be. That involves keeping your word and earning their trust by saying what you’ll do and doing what you’ll say. That means that control over the entire thing is well within your own hands. If you can’t fulfill your commitments, inform your client of the variance from what was promised. They’ll appreciate your proactivity and thank you.
Fix the Client First
If at all possible, burn the phrase, “Fix the Client First” indelibly into your brain such that it always pops up whenever you’re in doubt that you will finish something on time. Face it, we all run into unanticipated problems especially when dealing with tech. Own up to it. Tell your client. Take pride in your own proactivity in making that call.
When you fix the client first, you’re adjusting their understanding of the situation. That’s as important a part of your job as anything can be.
Were you to be asked what the most important thing you get out of your work is, one possible response you might have is, “the satisfaction of serving clients and helping them be more productive and more successful.” If tha t’s your first answer, bravo!
Another response might be “Substantial, even plentiful fees!” That’s not a surprise answer at all, but if its your primary answer you may not be thinking forward enough.
“Referrals to new clients,” is also a popular answer, and indeed there’s almost nothing more valuable than being introduced to new prospective clients to expand your business. In fact, the only thing that might exceed the value of referrals is the thing that most directly causes them.
A client relationship founded and grounded in trust is the most valuable thing any provider of any service can ever possess. When you work hard for a client, its primarily to earn their trust. When you work to make sure your client fully understands exactly what you’ve done for them its because you want to make sure they appreciate it and trust you to continue doing the same. When you tell them the truth, no matter how harsh it may be, you build deeper and greater trust. It’s all about trust.
As an independent professional technologist, or as an in-house technologist staff member, trust is the most valuable tool in your kit. Appreciate that value by being as consistently enthusiastic about letting your client know when things are going wrong as you are about telling them when it all went right.