One of the most essential things in a client-business relationship is trust. Without trust, clients will leave you and tell others about how untrustworthy you are, thus loosing you even more potential clients. This is why it is important to first, not allow your clients to lose trust in you and second, if this does happen, you need to be able to regain their trust. A client losing trust in you is bound to happen and sometimes there isn’t a lot you can do about it. So that is why we are focusing more on what to do after you have lost their trust. Paul Glen and Maria McManus have some insights into this in their book The Geek Leader’s Handbook. They give leaders 8 steps to gain back client trust before you lose them.
Step one: Be prepared
Clients are picky people. They tend to tell you one thing but mean another. You can’t expect to be on their good side at all times. That is why you’ve got to be ready for the worst. Just accepting that it will happen eventually will save you from a lot of problems down the road. Skipping strait to the last step of grief is always the easiest.
Step two: Get the facts
Now that you have accepted that you will lose a client’ trust eventually, what do you do when that actually does happen? This step starts the process. The first thing to do is listen to your client. What do they want to happen? Do they know what they are talking about? Ask questions. Figure out what went wrong from a technical point of view.
Step three: Find the feelings
Next, you need to talk about feelings. This may be the hardest of them all for technical people to deal with. Even though it may be difficult understanding why your client feels they way they do, it is very helpful to see the emotional side of things.
Step four: Let them know you got it
Now that you understand what the client is thinking, it’s best that your client now try and understand what you are thinking. This will hopefully help them understand the reasoning on your side of things behind some of the problems. During this process, you need to try to explain to them what they were telling you this who time but on your side fo things. Saying things they said back to them will help them understand that you understood what they were saying to you.
Step five: Dispute the facts (if you must)
This is probably the hardest part out of all of them. If the client has wrong ideas of how things work, you need to talk with them about them. If you disagree with the way something should go, now is the time to talk. Now that they fully understand that you know what you are talking about and what they want.
Step six: Frame the problem
Framing a problem can be interesting. You need to be sure that you both agree on the reasons behind why a problem is happening. Perhaps they think you have no clue what you are doing while you think that you just are trying to do what they want in the best possible way. You both need to agree in the end.
Step seven: Handle the feelings
We’re coming back to feelings! You need to deal with them before you are able to fully solve the problem. How you deal with this will really depend on the problem and the way the client wants to be treated. Your best bet is to really just be kind. Don’t let them feel like you are ignoring the way they feel about things.
Step eight: Handle the problem
Finally, the last step, handle the problem. Now that everyone understands everyone else, we can take action. Be sure to keep a note with what you guys agreed on because then you can come back to it later if need be. Take action and try to do the best work for your client!