Got Client or Customer Conflict Dread? – By Brian Secrist

by Sara Szado on January 12, 2016

feedfront-33 cover-188x240Anyone who has been in a professional business environment has at one time or another felt this way. You have a meeting with a client coming up, and you know it’s going to be a tough one. The client is not happy about the progress and has no problem telling you about it.

They could already be contentious personalities, or maybe even just not very nice in general. The stress of the upcoming meeting could even be affecting your other work, loss of sleep the night before, and your overall mood in general.

This situation sound familiar? You are not alone. As a manager myself years ago, I had some moments where I felt this way. And I see that same stress affecting other new managers. It does not happen often, but those instances can have widespread effects on morale and company culture.

Long ago, I decided that was enough. I am no longer going to feel that way and was ready to do something about it. And by solving this for myself, I have been able to coach others to do the same.

There are a number of simple steps that can go a long way in helping. The first thing I tell people is to adjust your perspective. Rather than think of all the terrible things that COULD happen in the call/meeting, think of what you can do to create the call or meeting that YOU want.

Accept that the chips will fall where they may. But inside you will know that you are creating the environment that you want, regardless of external factors. I can’t understate this first point enough; it is the key to this change.

Now that (hopefully) you have this outlook for the upcoming call, you can start working on why the client may be upset or contentious. Ask yourself some questions. Do they keep repeating themselves? Are they frustrated with performance? If the answer is yes to either or both of those, then they likely don’t feel they are being heard and are expecting something that they are not getting.

Plan for the call. Keep calm, create a positive environment, regardless of what they say. Don’t speak, let them talk (the more they talk, the better they will feel after). If they are upset, empathize, make sure they feel they are being listened to, and focus on those complaints. Do they have goals or expectations that were not shared or agreed upon? Great time to unpack that on the call and get to a consensus.

All the empathy and listening skills will only come if you can do the first part. Create the call you want. Come at with nothing but positivity. Do that, and watch your reality change. I love contentious calls now. Even look forward to them. They are more opportunities to make our clients love us.

Brian Secrist is Director of Accounts at JEBCommerce.

This article appeared in issue 33 of FeedFront Magazine, which was published in January 2016.

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