March 23, 2020

How to Save a Bad Client Relationship

How to Save a Bad Client Relationship

No matter how proactive you try to be, misunderstandings will occur from time to time between your company and your customers. 

There are two main factors impacting the health of every company-client relationship: value and outcomes. Outcomes consist of the quantitative results your product or service delivers to your customers. Value is a more qualitative aspect of how customers feel about the relationship that’s impacted by responsiveness, active listening and time to resolution.

Outcomes and value go hand-in-hand, and fundamentally, they’re the foundation for how all your clients are measuring you. If you’re creating value throughout the engagement, then it can create a buffer when outcomes don’t turn out as expected. Conversely, if you’re exceeding expectations with the outcomes you’re delivering, customers might be able to temporarily forgive some miscommunications.

However, for a company to effectively create value and outcomes for a customer, they need to start by being aligned on what the desired experience and goals are.

If there’s a disconnect on how you’re being measured, that can lead to a fractured relationship. Just as alignment is vital within your organization — between your marketing, sales and service teams — it’s also a fundamental component of client success.

1. Be Aware of Perception

Understand what each customer is measuring you on and what outcomes they’re looking for from the start, that way both parties can hold the other accountable and collaborate. If your customers can’t see how what you’re doing creates value or outcomes for them, they might have a negative interpretation of your engagement even while your company is actually helping them reach their goals.

When there isn’t alignment between you and your clients, clients can feel like they’re working against you instead of together with you.

Understanding how your customer feels about you and the engagement will help you not just mitigate crises when they do arise, but also proactively circumvent them from occurring. 

2. Seek Out Information on What Your Customers Want and Need

Employ active and empathetic listening and solicit feedback that will help you solve escalations, gaps in relationships and perceived lack of value. Use regular surveys and check-ins to be constantly discovering what’s important to your clients 

As you collect information, keep in mind that the challenge customers are voicing is a symptom, not the core pain. To effectively solve the pain and mend your relationship, you have to dig and identify the core problem. You can’t just stick a bandaid on top. 

Through asking a lot of questions and actively listening to the responses, you can help customers identify a problem they may not have even been aware of. Then, you can turn that pain into an opportunity to better help your customers.

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3. React Quickly

No matter how hard you work to ensure you’re on the same page as your customers, things can still change unexpectedly.

If you need to make changes to your offering in order to deliver the outcomes your client is looking for, you need to quickly come to an agreement about what’s the best path to take and move forward as effectively and efficiently as possible. 

Solving for things that went wrong is a team effort. Gather all stakeholders within your company to develop a couple options for paths forward. The paths you develop should be entirely customized based on the individual client and their unique needs. Following a standardized protocol won’t have the same impact. 

Next, share those options with your clients and be open to their feedback around what’s best for them. 

Once you agree on the course of action, be transparent about how things are progressing and make sure your customer understands they can provide assertive feedback. In order to improve your relationship, you need to be responsive to their influence, but that requires openness from them in addition to openness from you.

4. Earn Their Trust

Maintaining strong relationships with your customers should be a goal for every company. Take your clients’ needs seriously and show the progress you’ve made.

Regaining trust when it’s been lost takes time, but to do so, you just need to be open, honest, transparent and empathetic. 

An essential part of that is admitting when you’re wrong. When you fail, accept it, communicate about it immediately and show up with a gameplan on how to solve the problem.

You should have the customers’ best interests at heart, and that should be clear in every interaction you have. The goal of upsells and renewals is not just to earn revenue for your company, but also to better help your clients — so if your pitch comes off as salesy, you’re taking the wrong approach.

The Takeaway 

Maintaining healthy relationships with your customers doesn’t have to be complicated. You might have some nuanced measures to try to act preventatively instead of reactively, but at the end of the day, you just want all of your engagements to feel effortless for clients — especially during those tough conversations. 

If you have a cutting-edge strategy or top-of-the-line product, all you need to provide your clients with value and outcomes is empathetic listening, open communication and responsivity. 

Leverage client feedback to improve your offering and make sure you carefully monitor how engagements are going — don’t just assume everything is great because you haven’t heard otherwise.

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Dylan Berno

Dylan is a former Client Success Manager at New Breed. He specializes in problem solving and creative strategy to ensure clients and organizations achieve their desired outcomes.


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