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How do you let your client down without losing their business?

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In customer service, what’s the hardest thing to say?

I suggest the hardest part of customer service is having to admit you can’t do what the client wants. Supposing you’ve changed your systems and what was available to a client is no longer an option. How would you approach that so that you win and don’t lose the goodwill of your client?

The first step is to let them know ahead of time. Ideally in plenty of time so you can work out with your contact what damage (if any) there might be. Just letting them know in itself is a great move. It could well be that they never use that part of your service, or very rarely, so the issue is small. However, if you wait until they find out for themselves, the issue will look very different. Because now they apparently do need to access that part of your service. They have a reason to use it and now it’s not available. This could mean that a promise they have made to their own client (external or internal) cannot be honored. The reaction is inevitably going to be negative. Your fabulous offering is now only seen through the lens of the one thing that now does not work. It appears to them that your offering is worth considerably less than before. It could like a reason to review their position with you. It has now become critical.

All this could have been avoided. Let them know ahead of time. Something like “I’m so sorry the XYZ service won’t be available in the next couple of months. I’m concerned, does this mean we need to have a discussion on how we help you with this in the future? My biggest fear is that, even though you don’t use that part of the service very often, you might be tempted to review what you do with us as a whole. Is that likely to happen?” If you address that fear, the chances are high that they’ll say something like “No, it’s not a problem; I appreciate you telling me, but I can’t recall the last time we needed to access that!” On the other hand, if it is a big thing to them, you will want to know about it so you can hopefully shore up your relationship. “Well, thank you for letting me know. This could be a problem!”

The next thing to do is to send in the account management team to get them back on side! The account management team are much more likely to have success if they can remind the client of all the other good things they get, and do so well before the critical date. Having the opportunity to do a good RECON meeting can often mean more business, not less.

Customer service, even when it goes wrong, is the engine to great client relationships and potential new business.

If you'd like help with Customer Service or want to know more RECON meetings that are an essential part of that and you are based in Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, Berkshire or Kent, let me know.

Paul Glynn

Paul Glynn

Sandler trainer