Q – How do you effectively address client complaints?

A – You have to take client complaints in specific and bite-sized approaches, via a five-step disciplined process:

  1. Prepare – Anticipate the most common complaints; Put yourself in the customer’s shoes (empathy), and build up a “library” of common complaints (and responses)
  2. Acknowledge – Demonstrate that you care about the client’s concern and understand why it is important to them (build rapport and keep the situation calm and composed); particularly avoid insincere/superficial responses (rapport-breakers) and following up with the word “But…” as seldom anything good comes after it!
  3. Clarify – Question to make sure you have fully understood the client’s complaint; it also buys you time to think of a suitable reply and helps prevent you misunderstanding the concern/question. Avoid “Why…” as it makes most questions sound like a challenge.
  4. Respond – Answer / address the client’s complaint; a mentor of mine says – “do the right thing and do it now!” Make sure your explanation is confident and avoid sounding defensive or patronizing / belittling
  5. Check – Verify that you have answered the concern / complain to the satisfaction of the client. A well-handled issue will build trust and credibility which will contribute to your relationship currency and reputation capital. Avoid reopening issues you’ve already resolved.

It is critical that the entire client-facing parts of the organization are trained, coached and mentored in the customer lifetime value (LTV) concept – in short, a $50K LTV client is not worth upsetting over $50! I’m also often reminded of a quote by a friend and mentor: “Do the right thing and do it now!”

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