Restoring Client Trust

So you messed up. Your client is not happy, there is a lot on the table, and you know that if you don’t fix it soon, they’re gone. Just because you messed it up doesn’t mean you can’t fix it. There is still hope for you and your job. There are steps that you must take in order to fix this big ‘ol mess. There are 8 steps and are such: Be prepared, get the facts, find the feelings, let them know you got it, Dispute the facts, frame the problem, handle the feelings, handle the problem.

Many people seem to be surprised when clients are unhappy, but you should really always be prepared, since you cannot control them or always cater exactly to their needs. This is what is talked about with the first step. You have to know the project and the environment, know the client culture, be prepared for failure, and show the client that you really do care. I think that people are more lenient and forgiving when they can see that you are being genuine. The second step is to get the facts. Listen to what the client says about what is wrong. You must first understand what is wrong before you can make steps to fix it. Make eye contact, and really listen to what they have to say. You have to let them know that you WANT to fix it. Listen to what the client doesn’t say. This could mean sentences that they start but don’t finish, long pauses, avoided subjects, and unanswered questions, and also listen to what they don’t know how to say. Step 3 says that you must find the feelings about the situation. Watch and listen to the client, because it might be more about what they aren’t saying and what they are displaying with their body language that is really important. Make a statement about the emotions and then shut up about it. Also don’t be afraid to simply ask about how they are feeling about the situation. Step 4 says to let the client know that you get it now that you see how they feel, tell them that you understand and really try to understand how they feel. Once they tell you their grievances, restate it back to them in a summarized form so that they know you really listened and know that you want to help. Then ask them if you have it all right to confirm it is what they want. Step 5 is question the facts, but this may not be necessary. If there are things you question then ask them. Step 6 is to frame the problem. Put it into perspective by identifying the clients mental model and try to align it with your own mental model of the situation. Once you have your own mental model, communicate it with the client. Step 7 is to Handle the feelings about the problem. Empathize and apologize for how the project has gone so far. Be honest about your feelings so far as well. The last step, step 8 is to finally handle the problem. Take what you have gathered and the plan you have made and implement it into the project. Make sure you document the agreement that you two came to and then follow through with it.

Clients are going to get unhappy, and instead of losing those clients, you can take steps to make them happier with an end outcome that they hadn’t thought of before. If you take extra steps to correct the problem and they see your effort, they will respect you more and may be more prone to working with you again in the future.