November 20th, 2017
Regardless of how well you run your business, or how seamlessly you deliver your product or service, you will inevitably have to resolve the occasional unfortunate scenario or disagreement with a client or customer. While disputes are unavoidable in business, there are some basic steps you can take to minimize incidents, keep your clients happy, and your reputation in tact.
1. Implement Official Business Policies:
As a business, it’s imperative to figure out what does and doesn’t work for you. Turn these decisions into formal policies. Consider writing your policies from the perspective that they benefit both your business and your clients.
2. Share Policies Verbally:
Find a way to incorporate sharing your policies in introductory and sales conversations with your clients, highlighting the way the policies benefit them. This may require thoughtfully crafting the language you use; by putting yourself in your client’s shoes you’ll improve the process and your client relationships.
3. Reinforce Policies Through Contracts:
Have contracts revised or updated if necessary, to reflect your policies and appropriately educate your clients. If done right, your clients will have heard the relevant information verbally in previous sales conversations, which will then be reinforced by your written contracts.
4. Watch for Red Flag Clients & Respond to Red Flag Scenarios:
No one wants to deal with difficult clients (although they will be terrific experiences for informing the development of your key business policies!) However, you can avoid many “red flag” clients if you watch for tell-tale signs like:
1. They ask for more than your other clients.
2. They expect special treatment that stretches beyond providing great customer service.
3. They try to pay less, late, or not at all.
4. They in other ways cause some initial or early hesitation on your behalf, such as asking extensively about a refund policy, or outlining “special circumstances”, and asking for early and then escalating accommodations.
If you’re faced with “red flag client” warning signs, politely refer them elsewhere, or simply decline their business.
That said, sometimes problems arise even with the best of clients. You might be faced with a genuine question, mix-up or misunderstanding regarding your policies and procedures. Perhaps there is a grievance with the deliverables, or level of service your business has provided. It’s important to address these genuine issues (i.e. “red flag scenarios”), swiftly. (More on that in a separate post – watch for “How to Respond to Red Flag Scenarios”.)
5. Have Dispute Resolution Policies and Procedures in Place:
Be sure to have dispute resolution policies and procedures in place, for use both internally (with vendors, employees, independent contractors, business partners, affiliates etc) and externally, with clients or customers.
Train and educate your hired help, especially employees, to ensure that the first step to dispute resolution is always asking as many questions as possible, and gathering as much information as possible before providing a response. People always need to feel heard in order to feel ready to let something go, or soften their position. Help accomplish that by starting with in-depth listening.
6. Aim for Clarity:
In all touch points with your business, aim for clarity. Whether it’s your marketing and advertising language, your business policies, conversations, or sales processes with clients, clarity is key. Systematize your messaging to ensure it is always the same. Train your people to follow these systems to minimize mistakes or confusion, especially when working with your clients or customers.
7. Be Fair:
Always strive for fairness and equitable approaches in your contracts, policies, and systems. As much as possible, make all of your policies and language “client-facing.” Consider what the benefits are to your customers or clients, and how your policies help them get what they want faster, easier, better, with less hassle, or more value, etc. You always have an opportunity to create a win-win through your business policies.
8. Finally, Treat Your Business like a Business:
Treat your clients the way you would want to be treated. And be clear in policy and practice that you are running a business. Respecting your own policies and sticking to your boundaries while delivering an outstanding client experience is not only achievable, but essential to your success.
Here are my last three posts in case you missed them!
For more information on Business Planning, visit he following articles….
© 2017 Heather Pearce Campbell, The Legal Website Warrior
DISCLAIMER: THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS POST MAY CONTAIN LEGAL INFORMATION, BUT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE. NO RELATIONSHIP, INCLUDING ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP, HAS BEEN FORMED AS A RESULT OF THIS POST. YOU ARE ADVISED TO SEEK THE ADVICE OF AN ATTORNEY LICENSED IN YOUR STATE IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS.