“It not only works great to head-off tantrums with two year olds, it also works well in defusing upset clients.”
How To Say “No” To Clients Without Alienating Them
Sometimes we have to say “no” to clients. When that happens, their response can run the gamut. Our first two methods centered on relationship – taking time to consider their position and using respectful empathy when listening. The third method is also centered on relationship and it can be utilized when the first two methods fail. This method gives deference to your client and empowers them to resolve their own dispute. In short, it “turns your client’s frown upside down.”
A lot of people will already be familiar with our third method of saying “no” as it’s a method of conflict resolution often utilized in parenting. It not only works great to head-off tantrums with two year olds, it also works well in defusing upset clients. The basic premise is to give the client a concession that they control, while not “giving in” to their demands. Remember, you run your business, not your clients. If you don’t follow your own policies, why should they?
Giving Clients Power to Resolve their Own Disputes
Oftentimes clients want something we just can’t give them. Period. When that happens, you can give them a choice between things you can give them. Giving people something while empowering them to choose will make them a participant in resolving the problem. This is also a conciliatory gesture which serves to “repair” the relationship. This is especially useful when the first two methods fail or when your client feels they need to “be made whole” due to a perceived inequity. So you may say something like, “I understand why you’re upset. While I can’t refund your money, what I can do is give you ‘x additional free services’ next time you order or 10% off your next service.”
It should be mentioned that all of the methods covered in this series assume you’re not “in the wrong.” If you’re in the wrong – fess up, take responsibility and take care of your client. If you own a lawn mowing company and a client fell off your radar, then the next two services are free. That’s the best way to keep clients happy. Why the next two? Because you’re a big person and value your client’s business. Your investment of two free visits, compared to the lifetime value of the client, is much cheaper than the cost of acquiring a new client or bad publicity.
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