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How to save a relationship with a client when things go south

Sometimes being an entrepreneur is not all that we crave to be. When I left my job 9-5, it was to pursue the ultimate freedom of self-management. I became the boss, and that meant that the power was all mine, no? Not exactly. As we all understood – especially those of us in the service sector and those with customers on a retainer – getting rid of your boss simply means picking up new 'bosses', aka your customers .

While you probably care as much, if not more, to make these new "bosses" happy, you will sometimes find yourself at odds with them. How you handle these misunderstandings and complications will greatly affect your success. It is much easier for a customer to shoot than than a boss.

I've been thinking about this in a recent conflict with a client, and I realized how important it is to navigate inescapable confrontations with a plan. Here is the story of my experience and how I finally saved the relationship.

What's wrong

One of my clients was usually punctual with payment, but it did not arrive at the time during this particular month. I noticed that his interactions with me were getting a little laconic. I was worried. It was a longstanding relationship with the client – and one in which I had poured a lot of sweat. I quickly reached out to him with a type of email "Is there anything I should know?". Just as I had predicted, it was indeed not happy.

I was shocked to discover why. His rankings (my responsibility) were solid . Traffic was up 20%. Conversions of his forms have increased by 20%. It was a triumph for me, but it turned out that these measures were not important from his point of view. His problem was our delivery time on what I call "non-KPIs". This included minor website design changes and other special projects included in our service, but which played virtually no role in its strategy or ROI. We had misunderstood his priorities.

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In the end, the problem came from our differing opinions on KPIs. Fortunately, I managed to control things and save the relationship, but only because I kept the following tactics in mind:

  • Prepare your answer accordingly. If your client suddenly lost faith in you, try not to let him cut you too deeply. Use this as a learning opportunity. In my situation, I promised the customer a complete answer within 24 hours. He was pleased with the promise and I had more time to find an answer.
  • Put your personal feelings aside. It will be difficult if you think that you or your team have been insulted. You have all the rights and expectations to defend yourself as a professional; be sure to leave something personal at the door.
  • Anticipate Arguments and Prepare Evidence Fortunately, I was already collecting data very effectively before a loophole was created. We have recently adopted a series of different software suites, including Trello and Freshbooks, which allow us to track and sort hours and tasks. Thanks to these tools, I was able to equip data that showed exactly where the client's money was going and what results could be directly attributed to what I was doing for him.
  • Consider both sides You have an issue here, but you want to let the facts speak for themselves. Make sure you understand their criticism because they may very well be right in this case. If this is not the case, you should be able to prove it without making it personal. Try to return to the same side and the same page.
  • Make sure this does not happen again This incident revealed some gaps in our process; In particular, I have not contacted my clients often enough to keep them informed. I've improved the transparency of how we work for our clients with smaller, more frequent goals, reports, and strategy process that include their contribution.
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In the end, it did not take much to bring him back on our side, considering that the relationship has almost collapsed. Going beyond this, I have made it a priority to build closer relationships with my clients so that misunderstandings like these can be avoided.

Author : Adam Steele is the owner of the Loganix agency. Check out his The Steele Entrepreneur Show YouTube channel.