It’s Not the Problem That Loses the Client. It’s How You Respond.

No matter how good your product, and no matter how hard you try, your product is going to fail from time to time. It’s inevitable. No product is ever perfect.

No service is ever perfect either. The restaurant that was impeccable the last time you ate there is unrecognizable the second time. The service you sell has days like that, too.

The more complex the solution, that combination of products and services and outcomes, is rife with opportunities for problems and failures. No amount of effort can account for the challenges that occur in the normal course of execution.

You might be tempted to believe that your company has an exclusive right to problems and failures. Because you have to deal with these challenges, and because you are emotionally invested, you are bothered by them, wishing you were perfect. You don’t lose clients because you have problems. You lose them when you handle them poorly.

But problems are not your problem. How you respond to your problems, however, may be your problem.

  • Hiding: One choice when dealing with problems is to avoid them, hoping that they go away or that someone else resolves them so you don’t have to. This choice typically ends not with the problem going away, but instead with the client going away.
  • Avoiding Accountability: Another choice you might make is avoiding accountability for the problem or failure. After all, it’s your operations team that failed, not you. Why should you have to face the angry, upset, or irate client?
  • Embrace: The best choice when dealing with problems is to respond to them quickly, apologize, dispatch them as fast as possible, and make changes to prevent those problems from reoccurring. This is what your client wants and expects from you. Mature, partner-oriented clients don’t judge you on whether or not you have problems. They judge you on how you respond when you the inevitable problems surface.

Your clients have their own problems serving their clients. You want from them the same thing they want from their clients, namely, a chance to make things right.

Your competitors have the exact same problems and challenges you have in executing what you sell. You know this because you call on their clients, and when these problems rise to a great enough level, you win those clients. Had your competitor better handled their problems, they may have retained those clients. This is also true for you.

The best approach to dealing with problems is to handle them well. Wishing you weren’t going to have them is a poor strategy. Get better at managing them.

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