Resolving Conflicts with Clients
By Ginger Derrickson
Everyone in business, from the CEO, sales staff, and the receptionist has asked:
"How do I resolve conflicts with clients?"
This article will be written from the aspect of the owner of a business.
However, even an employee needs to be made aware of how to resolve conflicts
with clients they have contact with.
It used to be said: "The customer is always right!" But in our day-to-day
dealings with many businesses it has become more like: "We provide you with our
service, product, etc. - so WE ARE ALWAYS RIGHT!"
Have you thought about what you are doing, or should be doing, to resolve
conflicts? What do you want the bottom line to be? If you want to still have
a business 6 months from now then you need to consider this subject seriously.
When my husband and I owned T&G Decorating, we rarely had conflicts with our
clients, however; there is one that stands out.
We contracted to hang wallpaper in a bathroom. The walls underneath the
original paper were an ugly green. The new paper had a light background and we
were concerned that the color might show through. However, if you hold a
piece of the dry paper up to the wall in good light and you can not see the
color behind it there will not be a problem. As the paper was being hung there
were places where the green-colored wall did give a strange cast to the surface
of the paper (this is a natural occurrence when wallpaper is wet). We told
them that because of the nature of bathrooms (moisture buildup) they should
give the paper a few days to dry out. They declined to pay us until they could
see if this was true.
Two days later they called and said that the green paint was showing through
and they wanted us to 'fix it!' We asked if they had been taking steamy
showers and they said yes, but they felt it should be dry enough and that we
We asked them to give it a few more days and to try and not take steamy
showers, but they would not accept that. They wanted us to remove the paper,
paint the walls white, buy more paper, and re-hang it, all at our expense!
What would you have done?
We tried to live by the motto mentioned at the outset of this article: "The
customer is always right" but was this taking that motto too far? After all,
we were supporting our family with the income from this business and not only
would the paint and reordered paper be more than we made on the job to begin
with, we would also be losing possible income from other clients while we were
"redoing" this job!
We decided that if we did not treat this customer with the same attitude as one
in which we were responsible for a job not turning out right, then we could be
hurting our reputation and future potential income in a far worse way.
You have heard it said, "People talk about BAD SERVICE far more often than they
do GOOD SERVICE." We wanted to still be in business 6 months later so, we told
them to order the new paper, and we would strip, paint, and redo the job. They
were to let us know when the paper came in and we would reschedule.
Four days went by and the customer called again, not to tell us that the paper
had arrived, but to tell us that the weather had turned a little chilly and
they had turned on the heat. And "guess what?" - the paper fully dried and "not
one bit" of the green paint showed through! We could now come pick up our check!
WHEW! We knew we were right, but in the interests of our future clients and
potential income we decided to let this client be right.
It is not always easy to resolve conflicts, especially those that may hit us
where it really hurts - our bank accounts.
So what really is the key to resolving conflicts with our clients?
Try to think of these scenarios ahead of time and come up with possible
solutions before they happen. If you have employees, have role play meetings
with them and train them how to handle upset and irate clients.
You may say, "How will I ever make a living if I let the client dictate the way
I run my business?"
I ask, "How will you ever make a living if you don't have clients because of
'one' unsatisfied client?"
Chances are if you are building a good working relationship with clients at all
times; the times when you are called upon to risk your future for one client
will be few and far between.
When those really rare situations come up, wherein the client wants you to do
what THEY feel is right, then think about how this will affect your bottom line
today and in the future! Your business depends on it!
Calculated Costs of Just One Customer Complaint
One complaining customer is your opportunity to improve. You can
rescue the potential, immense loss when you improve on what that one customer complains
about. Provide a solution that they agree is more than satisfactory. Statistics show that
7 out of 10 customers will do business with an organization again if a complaint is
resolved in their favor relatively quickly.
Eight Secrets to Maintaining an Outstanding Business
Aim not to make money.
Instead, help others to
succeed and provide them with a
solution to their problems. Keep
this secret in mind while working your
business and the money will
come. Believe it.
Top 10 Ways To Keep Your Customers
1. SAY thank you and smile. Project an image of someone that others will want to do business with. A good attitude is a powerful customer service tool.