Towards the end  of my talk last night on How to Handle Difficult Clients, I summarised a seven step process that I have not previously shared on this blog:

1Listen to the clientThey won’t listen to you until you have listened to them.

When their mouths are open, their ears are closed.

2Offer EMPATHY first.

Do not start with

“It wasn’t my fault”

Make clear that you appreciate their position.

Eg: “I can understand why you must be upset by that.”

Repeat if necessary.

[You are empathising, not sympathising and not agreeing that you, or anyone else, has done something wrong]

3Ask questions

Upset people tend to start in the middle

Ask questions so that you can get the whole story and are able to understand their problem.
4PauseMake clear that you’re not offering some ‘pat’ prepared response.  What follows needs to evidence that you have been listening to what they’ve said.
5Explain what YOU can do for themOutline what YOU can do.

If it’s not what they want, explain your reasons without BLAMING them.

Take responsibility for the follow up action

6Keep your promiseDo whatever you said you would do and ensure that anyone else involves does so too  (as far as you can anyway).

Don’t simply delegate or dump it.

7Go one step furtherThis makes the difference between quite good service and excellent service.

Contact the client afterwards and ask if they are happy with the solution.

If they pause before saying ‘yes’ – they aren’t really happy. Go through the loop again.