Client Relationships — What to Do When Things Go Wrong (FS220)
If you work with clients directly there’s a very good chance you’re going to have to deal with some shitty situations.
- Clients asking for late refunds
- Clients delaying payment for waaaaaaay too long
- Customers leaving bad reviews on Yelp, Etsy or something like it
- Clients changing requirements in the middle of a project
- Client taking forever to get back to you, stopping your progress, and preventing you from finishing and getting paid
- Clients ending up completely unhappy with the work
On the podcast episode and article below we walk you through several steps to try to alleviate your client blowouts.
And we go one very necessary step further and help you understand steps you can take to keep blowouts like this from happening!
How to fix a client blowout:
1. Take a step back and go into “triage” mode. Be crystal clear in communication. Double and triple repeat what they're saying and what you're saying. Communication probably got you into this mess, maybe it can get you out. You want to prove that you're listening. Triage mode really means, just get your nerves up to go above and beyond for a little bit… as much as you’re able. We’re not gonna degrade ourselves, but if it’s worth it to try to work this out, then goddamit let’s try hard to do so.
Lots more on that one in the podcast conversation. Don’t miss it, FYI. These notes are just a few of the gems we land on.
2. Go above and beyond to truly empathize and show the customer you hear what they’re saying. start your sentiment with, “ugh, I would hate it if that happened to me." Empathy takes your guard down a little bit and helps you meet in the middle, but also this helps you hear your client much better. A bad client interaction can derail your whole quarter, so this is well worth it. Do not get defensive. It's easy for the defense wall to go up. Steph's #1 tool for that is not taking things personally. So easy to put your hands up and say "it wasn't me!" Don't get into this situation, it puts you on your heels, does your clients a disservice and will not lead you to an equitable agreement to solve this problem.
3. Some clients are just bad. How much do you want to fight back? Maybe you should just move on to the next. How much effort do you want to put in to save this relationship? At some point you might realize "I don't want to work with this client at all." Acknowledge and move on.
4. Leverage… do you have any? Deliverables? Sometimes you are the biggest "asset" to the customer because it's hard to find another great whatever-you-are. Sometimes you have to sell them again in the middle of the project, reselling the benefits, reselling the vision. This is where all that marketing and selling you learned in the Fizzle Roadmap comes into play — how well do you know their objectives, desires, fears, etc? Because now you need to remind them why you’re their Wonder Woman.
5. "If I do this will you be happy?" This is a simple trick you can use to get the conversation to a point where all their desires are turned into a statement like, “OK, I’m hearing you say X, Y and Z. I understand completely. If I do this [fill in the blank], will you be happy?” We’re trying to be crystal clear here, giving the client a concrete, literal expression of “here is what you’re going to get and you say you’re going to be happy with that.” (Only promise deliverables and dates, not results)
6. I've heard of people having success getting an attorney to send a threat letter. Requires money tho. But also, please know that at this point you’re likely going to be burning bridges; no repeat business, no great referrals. You want to get paid for something they withheld payment for? What's it gonna cost? What's the likelihood that you'll actually get paid. Check out this killer little tool from And.co for making your clients feel there’s a real law firm supporting you.
7. I don't even think going to court is an option for most of us.
Prevention is better! How to prevent client blowouts:
- Learning how to pick the right clients… Tons of insight in this in Book Yourself Solid. One thing you can do is take inventory of all your clients and give them grades. What do the great clients have in common? What do the dud clients have in common? Sometimes doing a consultation is such a helpful step to add to your process to be sure that this client is a fit BOTH WAYS.
- Doctor your process… Not necessarily how you use things but documenting the steps involved in delivering your project, or even documenting the steps to getting a customer to signup. There's a lot that can go wrong with a project that doesn't have a plan, a roadmap; you don't know what to expect and they don't know what to expect. And then you want to refine that process over time, massaging it as you take every client through it. This process is, in a very real sense, your business!
- Turn pro on your communication… You've got to be absolutely ON POINT with communication, namely, email. Be very clear about what action you want them to take at the beginning of the email and at the end; don't bury it somewhere in the middle! These kinds of things are more critical than ever. And it should be stated: the more comfortable you are with the phone, the better. The phone is for action, baby!
- Implement a killer client agreement… This one grows and changes with you over time. That’s how you know it’s killer. You've got to have crystal clear agreements… who's paying, how much, for what, when? There should also be specificity around how the client reviews the work, what happens when the client reviews the work, how long do they have to review the work, what number of revisions are allowed, etc.
- Have some rainy day contingency protection… You gotta keep some money in the bank for late payments, crazy clients, etc. You don't know what's gonna happen in freelance world.
Hope you enjoyed this episode and this conversation! Thanks for being here y’all. And if you haven’t SUBSCRIBE to the podcast because it’s the most real conversation in business going on right now!
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