“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”
Lyndon B. Johnson
You can delegate responsibility but you cannot delegate accountability. Ultimately you are accountable for the success (as well as the failure) of your business. You can have a trusted advisor but if you don't become empowered to understand the why behind the decisions being made, or if you do not put the advice into action, you are setting yourself up for challenges. You can make or break your business by proactively following the advice you receive or by procrastinating because you do not want to deal with the situation. Procrastination in these cases can cause a business to fail and/or cost you thousands of dollars!
Sometimes being proactive vs. reactive is the difference between success and failure. Taking action in a positive and always professional manner will differentiate you from your competitors. Caring about each client even when they may not care about you separates you from other companies offering similar services and products. Remember, your clients came to you for help and if they feel betrayed or taken advantage of, regardless if it is true or not, you would have failed that client. In some cases this is unavoidable… but how we deal with the aftermath and plan for the future is also a key factor in differentiating ourselves from our competition.
Going above and beyond what is expected to strive towards excellence is what your clients will value, even when you fall short. Everyone has challenges at some time or another. Last month we spoke about growing pains and the fact that if these growing pains do not happen (meaning you are not growing faster than your infrastructure can keep up with), then you may want to rethink how you are moving forward. Growing pains will certainly cause customer conflicts at some point but can also be a positive catalyst for instituting change. The key to handling this is dealing with it head on, proactively and with integrity, while knowing you cannot please everyone, nor should you. Sometimes the customer is not always right but their perception is still important.
So what do you do when someone is upset with you? Be honest, apologize and be accountable. If the situation was fault of yours, learn from it, offer some kind of restitution if you feel it is warranted or would help, and make improvements to avoid it in the future. If the reason the client is upset is out of your control, this makes moving forward more difficult. There may be nothing you can do or say to fix the situation and sometimes all you can do is to say you are sorry. And be sincere. And when that still is not enough, separate from the client – at this point you want to disengage. There is nothing you can do to fix or improve the situation and therefore maintaining communication and a relationship may not be a good idea.
Sometimes you may need to “fire a client” and it’s the best decision for both parties. For example, if the client has moved on but because they are dissatisfied and upset, they choose to publicly make their feelings known through the internet, my advice remains the same.
Apologize and if needed, make a simple but factual statement or acknowledgement and then move on. Do not engage, do not bicker and do not become unprofessional.
Maulissa Rampersad of Rubber N Glue, a website and social media marketing company frequently lectures on this topic. “When it comes to social media, even when you are correct, voicing your opinion does not help the situation. You should let your client vent, do not engage, and move on.” Do not sacrifice your integrity or the reputation of your company. And do not sacrifice your belief in yourself. While you should not engage publicly ever, do not allow yourself to be bullied either. Do what you can and then move on and if the situation turns into an on-going harassment, discuss it with the authorities.
So what's the moral of the story here?
- Be true to yourself
- Acknowledge when a mistake has been made
- Modify your procedures to avoid the mistake in the future
- Take action to correct it
- Do your best
- Address problems when they occur to the best of your ability
- And if you cannot improve a situation, then move beyond and away from it.
Be positive about growing pains because it means you are doing a good job and expanding faster than your infrastructure is prepared to handle. Learn from your mistakes and never stop making improvements. That is the key to moving towards success instead of failure.