Sometimes, even when you carry out your best work and deliver results which you believe perfectly fit the bill, your client disagrees. In these circumstances it can get tricky as you are understandably confused as to what could be wrong; especially if you have carried out significant changes already or faced client delays throughout the project.
For whatever reasons a client relationship goes off track, you need to find a way to rectify the issue for the protection of your business and to ensure that your client won’t turn around and sue your business or share negative feedback.
Accept what is Happening
The best thing you can do when you feel a client relationship is going downhill is recognise and acknowledge the fact. You should communicate what you think the problem is, in a diplomatic way and then hear the client’s view too. Communication is key and being open, honest and willing to listen to your clients concerns could go a long way.
You May Be Wrong
Getting the relationship back on track to finish the project or perhaps even get paid may require compromise. You may feel right but arguing your corner constantly is likely to end in stalemate and could result in your client choosing to take things further, especially if they have suffered a financial loss.
Try to empathise with your client and understand their point of view; in some cases offering an apology for any breakdown in communication could be the right thing to do.
Look to the Future
When you’re in contention with your client it can be difficult to get your relationship back on track, especially if you let yourself dwell on what has already happened i.e. all the changes or extra hours you have put in already. If you want to repair the relationship you need to look forward; focus on solutions, learn from the experience and how to avoid potential issues in the future.
Empathy is key to a successful working relationship. You should be open to hearing their point of view and should take some time understanding why they may be feeling as they are and respecting their perspective. You may even find if you consider their perspective you are more open to the changes they’re looking for.
Whilst you may not want to agree to everything your client is asking for (especially not without more money) you should be able to find neutral ground. If you are committed to finishing the project, then perhaps concede a little in the hope that it will re-establish trust and keep the client on side. You won’t be able to convince your client you are reliable and trustworthy by arguing your point.
If All Else Fails…
Some client relationships cannot be fixed and if your client has decided they are not going to accept any solution except pushing for a claim against you, make sure you have the right insurance policies in place. Professional indemnity insurance will cover you against claims for bad advice, negligence and you can even involve your insurer for guidance as soon as your client relationship becomes an issue. Even if there isn’t a claim in the end your insurer may be able to guide you towards a resolution.
You can’t ignore a business relationship going sour, especially if there is still work to be done and bills to be paid. It can be difficult to concede when you feel like you’ve done a good job but it can help your case and re-establish your client’s trust in your business.