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Client relationship scenarios described by senior practitioners in professional service firms

Broken bones can mend stronger – your approach can turn a negative client situation into a better relationship, if handled with real care.

Q A client has had a bad experience of us – how do I go about turning the negative effect of this into the positive?

A You need to ask yourself a couple of questions before proceeding:

There are two reasons why professionals must act in theses circumstances to get the relationship back on track:

  • Clients talk to each other and share bad experiences of professionals freely – this can be a  rich topic of conversation for them.  Preserving your market reputation is essential.

  • ‘Broken bones’ can mend stronger – if you do it properly. Rather oddly you can establish better lines of communications, control expectations better and develop a much deeper understanding of what the client wants – all from a potential relationship breakdown.

While much depends on the specific circumstances, think about these three stages:

1. Clear the air as quickly as possible – ask to meet with a view to having a clear understanding of what, in the clients’ eyes, went wrong, and what needs to improve  - and offer your own solution on how to avoid the situation in future.  Uncomfortable as the meeting might be, it may present a great opportunity to establish how they really like to work with their advisers. Prepare open questions on their preferred working processes, what their expectations are, and how to improve communications. Don’t be afraid to ask for their advice – a bit of humility is hugely helpful, and often needed.

2. Assess the level of damage –ask what you will have to do to repair the relationship. You may have to accept that a period of time has to pass before you can start building the relationship back up?  There again it might be possible to get back up on the horse straight away if handled properly.

3. Start the process again of establishing trust  - create relevant  opportunities to get together in professional circumstances eg  a ‘think in’ with other clients, an industry event - to remind them of your expertise and of your genuine interest in them and their business. Think about what would add the greatest value to your contact in the circumstances.