We have all heard of “___ -step plans to ____.” You can fill the blanks in with just about anything. There is a step by step plan to do just about everything. Solving conflict is no different. Our books shows us an eight-step plan to resolve client conflict and restore trust. The authors, Paul Glen and Maria McManus, are so adamant about the subject that they actually have an entire book dedicated to this eight-step plan. I also found links to other sites using different eight-step plans. This leads me to believe that restoring client relations is some kind of a big deal. Why would it not be? Without clients, businesses fail. So, what are the eight steps in our book?
- Be prepared
- Get the facts
- Find the feelings
- Let them know you got it
- Dispute the facts (if you must)
- Frame the problem
- Handle the feelings
- Handle the problem
If the list seems overwhelming, do not be afraid! The authors offer this wonderful checklist that you can print off and use in a time of conflict.
Within each of these steps are mini-steps, if you will. I will go over those now in as much detail as 400 more words will allow.
Be prepared: Within step one we are told to prepare ourselves and to care. We need to prepare both emotionally and intellectually. We also need to care about the client. The book stresses that caring is not just wanting their business or enjoying the challenge they bring you, but truly caring about what they need.
Get the facts: In order to do this step successfully we need to listen to three things; what the client says, what the client does, and what the client does not know how to say. Without fully listening there is no way for you to really get all of the facts.
Find the feelings: Here, the book gives us three ways to try and discover what our client is feeling. Watch and listen, make a statement about the emotions without saying anything else, and to simply ask. You will need to know the client well enough to know which of these methods to use in order to continue solving the conflict.
Let them know you get it: This step actually does not have any internal steps. It is really important that you do this though. Making sure the client knows that you get what they are trying to say to you will diffuse a lot of the stress and emotion. It also shows that you respect them and have been listening and caring.
Question the facts (If you must): Again, no internal steps with this one. Step five is only if need to question some of the FACTS that the client has stated. You cannot question the clients emotions, only the facts. If you must do this, make sure you do it respectfully.
Frame the problem: Step six is where we finally address the actual problem. In order to do this, we must first identify the client’s mental model. A mental model is just a the way the client is interpreting the situations. After that, you need to create your own mental model. Decide how you are interpreting the situation. Finally, compare the two models and communicate a new model to the client.
Handle the feelings: After you suggest a new model, the client is bound to have feelings about it. It may not be everything they wanted, and you need to take that into account. Two key approaches here are empathy and apology. Remember that.
Handle the problem: And finally, step eight. You have finally finished talking about the problem and now should be able to tackle it. Document the agreement that you make, and make sure you follow through.
If all of this is just too much to handle, I found a nice flowchart for problem-solving.