Handling dissatisfied Clients/Customers

“She was absolutely delighted with the friendly service she received and says she will not hesitate to use you in future and to recommend you to her friends.”

The quote above was received by one of my clients last week. It shows the power of dealing effectively with customer issues, as it is the response to the prompt resolution of a customer concern.

It is a fact of business that at some stage, you will encounter a dissatisfied client. Even the most systemised and efficient business is not immune to the client who thinks you are not providing value for money. While introducing service standards and endeavouring to manage expectations will minimise the number of dissatisfied clients, it is important to ensure you have procedures in place that allow you to take responsibility and resolve the issue to limit the potential cost to your business. 

Dissatisfied clients will cost your business money. Not only does it immediately affect your bottom line, but dissatisfied clients can cost you potential new clients. Some research suggest that each dissatisfied client is likely to tell 8 – 10+ people about their experience and the more dissatisfied clients you have, the more people are going to have a negative impression about your business. 

Dissatisfaction arises for a number of reasons but it is generally because a client does not perceive value in your service. “Value” is calculated simply as: Value = Quality / Cost

In other words, a client perceives value when the quality of the service is greater than the cost. Introducing client satisfaction surveys will help in identifying dissatisfied clients and give you a strong indication of areas of improvement in your business. While this will capture the vocal clients, how do you identify those dissatisfied clients who don’t bother to complete the survey or just “vote with their feet” and don’t come back? 

A simple way to spot dissatisfied clients is to pay attention to the signals you are given such as heavy sighing, avoiding phone calls, e-mails and letters or making sarcastic comments. Clients who are reluctant to interact with you and your team members are often unhappy with service but are reluctant to say anything directly. Unfortunately, while these clients are reluctant to say anything to you, they are not so shy in saying it to their friends and family who will also happily pass on negative press. To stop this negative publicity, it becomes even more important to clearly focus on managing client expectations at the start of each job. 

A complaint resolution process will deal with issues after a complaint is made, but you and your team can deal with issues of dissatisfaction before they get to that point. Your prompt action will ensure you recover the situation and will, in many cases, such as the one above, turn this dissatisfied client into a loyal one who will actively refer you new business. 

I suggest using a simple process to deal with issues of dissatisfaction before they become complaints:

  1. Deal with the issue as soon as you spot the clue.
  2. In a non confrontational way, ask the client if there is an issue e.g. “You seem a bit hesitant, do you have some concerns?”
  3. Then take a L.E.A.P!
    • Listen to their concerns.
    • Empathise with their issues in a non condescending manner.
    • Acknowledge their concerns (and if appropriate, apologise).
    • Provide a solution to address their concern.

Encouraging your staff to manage expectations and address dissatisfaction before it turns into a complaint will ensure you have happy clients who actively promote your business.

Remember that a client who complains can be a great indicator of ways you can improve.

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