Freelancer: Transforming Unhappy Clients
It’s not every day that we come across clients that are so unhappy with our services that they want to flip the table and fire us. But it happens, even to the top leaders in the industry, even to the best of us: A client can be disappointed with the products and services we offer and we will have to deal with the situation. It doesn’t matter if the client was having a bad hair day or was simply being unreasonable; Unhappy clients should never be left unattended. Because when you lose one client, you lose many more potential referrers that would have come your way – if only you attended to just one unhappy client and make them smile a little despite the dark cloud.
Just the other month I had a client calling me to complain about the photographer which I introduced to the job. “Even the photos I took with my digital camera look better than the ones your photographer took,” he boasted loudly on the phone. Honestly, if you ask me, I really was not bothered. That’s between him and the photographer. But because his unhappiness influenced the project which I was working on with him company, I had to deal with it.
Attending to unhappy clients resulted from external circumstances is also essential in business. But how can we turn their frowns into smiles again? How do we make them happy and get hired again in the future? How do we transform unhappy clients to satisfied clients? Does one unhappy client means all is lost?
Fortunately, the answer is no; None is lost and all is gain. In situations like this, all you need to do is manage effectively and the frowns may just turn into wide grins. And your unhappy client can be transformed to be your best client ever who respects you even more. Here are some ways you can transform the situation to your gain.
Listen & Be All Ears
Before you lose your cool and become unhappy yourself, remember to calm down and listen. Don’t just hear them out, you have to sit down and listen to what they have to complain about. And don’t interfere. Let them finish ranting before you say anything at all. Normally a person calms down after sharing their piece of mind. A conflict is best solved when all parties are calm and composed.
Acknowledge & Don’t Blame
No, you don’t have to say that it’s your fault (especially when it is not yours from the very start). But you have to let them know that you acknowledge their dissatisfaction. You have to show empathy to the clients so that they know you understand their frustrations. And when you do, use phrases that do not start the blame game. For example, you can say, “I’m sorry you didn’t like the photographs.” instead of “The photos have been taken, you have to pay even though you won’t use them.”
Look For Alternatives, Not Faults
Work with the clients to come out with alternatives or solutions to the matter so that both parties are happy at the end of the day. Ask them for their perceptions, understand why they feel the way they feel, and work your way around it. If they dislike lengthy contents, shorten it. If they dislike portrait images, crop them to horizontal ones. Remember, it’s not always what you want, it’s what they are want that they are paying for.
Release & Refer
When all else fails, learn to let go and release even if it means a refund and losing the job. The longer your client is unhappy, the more damage it does to the business relationship. So let go when you have to and be honest about it. Tell them the reasons behind your decision; Perhaps your style just wasn’t their cup of tea. At the same time, do not leave them dangling at the end of the rope. Refer them to other professionals who might be able to help them. Be genuine in helping them out and they will appreciate you. Last impression counts.
As an encouragement to all, let me finish my story of the unhappy client I had. I called up the photographer and arranged for a post analysis with the client, gave them a chance to discuss the problem over coffee and yet, the client was unhappy. So I played my last card. I completed the entire project for them for free (not with the intention to buy them back, but so that they won’t go around and give me bad publicity) and that did the trick! For in that simple act, they saw accountability and I garnered a new profound respect in them. And I was listed as one of their panel designers for future projects.
Here’s the golden rule: No unhappy clients should be left unattended. Because even one unhappy client makes a whole lot difference. Your referrals and reputation is at stake, and it’s a scar in your career forever. So manage effectively and transform their frowns to silly grins because unhappy clients matter. And they are important too!
Originally written by Gina Yap Lai Yoong © 2010 – First published at Live & Inspire Online Magazine