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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 were responsible.

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?


Think about how you would feel in similar circumstances.


How would you want to be treated?


What are the consequences if you don't resolve the conflict to the customer's satisfaction?

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!

Related Articles:

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.

© 2000

Ginger Derrickson - Assisting You Virtually; ADMINISTRATIVE SOLUTIONS FOR SMALL AND HOME-BASED BUSINESSES. E-mail: Phone: 765-482-6418 eFax: 208-361-2278

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