How much do your clients trust you?
If you don’t know, you may already be in danger of losing them.
In a world where relationships rule, trust is imperative. But it’s not always easy to be transparent with clients.
What does trust look like when you have a lot to lose?
Competition is fierce and delivering the best in products and services means going above and beyond rivals. However, let’s admit it – being the best all the time in every single way isn’t reality. Even if we are highly committed to the client and our process normally yields great results, things happen – for example, a missed deadline or a snag in product.
Even more serious, your business may encounter a particularly tough time enterprise-wide that risks to compromise your reputation in the marketplace.
When you find yourself in a vulnerable position with a client, you may fear losing the relationship.
However, if you have delivered great service with consistency in the past*, this situation could actually be an opportunity to strengthen it.
How do you recoup in a way that builds trust with your client?
Radical engagement means communication, transparency, and responsibility.
Communicate well, communicate early, and communicate, communicate, communicate.
Once you recognize a point of vulnerability, whether a deadline may be compromised, or your company is receiving negative press because of a temporary downturn, the inclination is to hide and hope that the client doesn’t notice.
Of course, that doesn’t work. So rather than wait to hear that the client has noticed, be proactive and reach out to connect and update. Doing so demonstrates that as a valued client, they should be kept updated. This will show them that you are taking responsibility for your commitment.
We tend to want to downplay situations that compromise our reputations, hoping that a “soft” version of the truth will be easier to accept.
But this is where most companies actually lose clients because the real truth generally emerges.
Instead, be transparent: “Here is the situation, here is our plan to recoup, and here is what we are doing so that this doesn’t happen, again.”
Anything less, even with the most effusive appreciation for their understanding, will not reflect your commitment to serving them at highest levels.
You can’t please everyone, but you can acknowledge responsibility.
Just because you are transparent, and you communicate well and often, this doesn’t mean you can avoid unpleasant reactions from clients. When others are counting on you, disappointment can be keen and emotions can flare.
However, remember that you are responsible, and acknowledge this. Let them know that if you were in their shoes, you would be disappointed and upset, as well. Remind them of your plan of action for recouping and recommit to serving them well. Let them know you will stay in close communication along the way until you deliver results.
Again, if you have delivered great service with consistency in the past, follow these three steps when you hit an unexpected snag that affects them. In doing so, you are sure to strengthen that client’s trust in you.
*For more on the topic of earning and keeping trust, companies of all industries and sectors can benefit from Leonard Berry’s article entitled How Service Companies Can Earn Customer Trust and Keep It, Harvard Business Review, 2017.
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Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.