Today’s article touches on something that you must be able to do if you want to have strong business relationships and grow a successful business in any industry. And I mean any industry. You know what that is?
It’s how to deliver bad news.
And how to deal with pissed off clients. It happens. Clients get mad, they get happy, they get sad, they complain… it’s just part of doing business.
When you deal with clients, you deal with people. Not faceless entities. So you’re going to be dealing with them on an emotional level, at least to a certain extent.
Taking care of your business relationships — especially when you have to deliver bad news — takes a little finesse. As I see it, there are three important steps to doing this successfully.
#1: Never, ever, ever text or email bad news!
Your clients are trusting you to have their back. So when you have to deliver bad news, pick up the phone and call them.
If you’re not able to get a hold of the client, and you have to leave a voicemail, just ask them to call back. Don’t explain why, or you’ll send them into a panic. If you say too much, chances are they will not call you back — they’ll send a book-length, panic-stricken email, telling you how they want to cancel services and no longer want to work with you.
You don’t want to receive an email like that… so don’t scare them!
Make sure you get on the phone or face-to-face and actually explain what’s going on. This gives you a chance to gauge tone, compassion and emotion on the client’s end. It also gives you the chance to convey calm confidence and assurance, which will help keep their emotions in check.
It’s best if you can talk face-to-face, but if that’s not possible, make sure you’re actually (physically) smiling when you make that phone call. Your confidence will come across nearly as well as in a face-to-face conversation.
#2 Your clients will mimic your behavior/emotion/demeanor
If you call a client and say, “Oh my god, I can’t believe it! We totally messed up on your campaign! I don’t know what to do. I’ve never seen anything like this happen before!”
Your clients are going to feel the same way. And chances are, you’ll get a verbal boot to the ass. However, if you call them with some confidence, and say something along the lines of, “Hey John, how are you doing? Just wanted to talk about something that happened today…” they’ll generally keep it together too.
While you’re on the phone, take a position that relaxes you, physically. It will make you feel calmer and in turn make them feel calmer, even if they can’t see you. But if you’re pacing while on the phone, pulling your hair out with one hand, and generally working yourself into a meltdown — your clients will pick up on that too, and you can expect a meltdown right back.
People mimic behavior, even when they can’t see you.
#3 Don’t just deliver bad news
When you have to call a client with bad news, don’t just dump the muck and leave it there. Be prepared to deliver a solution too.
Dealing with a pissed off client doesn’t happen after the fact, it happens before. It’s about how you set proper expectations. For example, if you tell someone you’re going to have something done in a week and you give it to them in a week and a day or two, that’s how you piss off a client.
On the other hand, if you know something takes a week to finish, what should you tell the client? “It will probably be done in two weeks.” So when you get it done in a week their reaction is, “Oh my God, you finished a week early! You’re incredible!”
How you set the expectations before you go into a relationship is how the relationship will play out — not just in business but in your dating life and in your friendships too. And that applies to delivering bad news to friends or family. DO NOT TEXT THEM! DO NOT EMAIL THEM! Have enough compassion to talk it out.
Do you have other tips for delivery bad news to clients? Tweet us @askbillygene! We’d love to hear from you!
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-The Billy Gene Is Marketing squad