A couple of blog posts ago I wrote about why client conflict can be good for business. Now you’ll find out how to deal with it!
1) Remember when you have an angry person on the phone or emailing you that this is an opportunity to create an even better relationship than you had with this client before they were angry. Print out the “How Conflict Can be Good for Business” blog post and keep it near the phone or your computer so that when you are REALLY freaked out by a screaming client you will have something to calm YOU in the face of all that negative energy.
2) If you are on the phone: let the client have their screaming fit. They need to get it out of their system. If you interrupt them in midstream they will lash out at YOU and you don’t want that.
Here’s what to do: Think about this upset client as if they are an angry dog.
As a pet sitter who is around dogs all the time, you probably realize that most angry dogs need to express their anger by snarling and baring their teeth. Once they’ve had their say, they will often just turn around and be on their merry way. But if you interrupt them by talking “Nice doggy” or stepping forward, they most likely WILL attack. Both of these actions interrupt the dog’s process to express his anger.
Words to live by when dealing with client conflict: Breathe. Listen. Don’t interrupt.
3) If the client has emailed you, DO NOT email back. Call them or email only to find a time to meet in person or on the phone. One of the best business tips I ever received is do not discuss any difficult issues via email. (This tip is invaluable for personal relationships too.)
Take the issue to the phone or in person. Why? Communicating a difficult subject via email creates a wall between you and that other person. You can remove the wall (or at least make it a wall you can peer over) by hearing that person’s voice and/or meeting them in person.
4) When the client is done spewing then let them know you heard what they said and you will do whatever it takes to rectify the problem. How do you know when they are done? Count for three LONG seconds.
If they have not spoken during the entire three seconds it is okay for you to talk. Say, “I’ve heard you and I’m so sorry for the part we’ve had in upsetting you.”
Put yourself in their shoes and let them know that you completely understand how they could feel that way about whatever it is that upset them. (People want to be heard and not made wrong for what they are complaining about–give them that gift and most clients will be forever grateful.)
Offer to give them money back. If one of your sitters did a lousy job then ask your sitter if they will pay for the mistake. (You cannot do this if they are an employee, only if they are an Independent Contractor.) If you feel that you are to blame because you weren’t clear with your staff-own that mistake and be willing to refund a portion or the full amount of their pet sitting fee. Also be willing to apologize to your staff if the communication error was on your part.
5) After you’ve offered money back ask your client if they need anything else by saying: “I’m truly sorry about this. Is there anything else I can do to make this right?” And be willing to do it.