I spent years in customer service, so many aspects of managing client relations come naturally to me.  I’m writing this today because of a conversation I had with a fellow small business owner who doesn’t share my background in serving clients.  A client of hers sent an e-mail expressing displeasure at the rate her project was moving.  Immediately my mind started racing with thoughts of what the bigger picture may be.  Typically there’s more to the story than is revealed in an e-mail.

My first piece of advise was to not respond to the client via e-mail.  This complaint warranted a phone call.  Additionally, I advised her to take the tone of the e-mail with a grain of salt. One can’t hear voice inflection or tonality in an e-mail and frequently people aren’t gifted at expressing their emotions in writing.

Next I told her that no matter whose fault it is, she is to take responsibility for it.  If it was the client’s fault and the client is a reasonable, she will realize she’s partly responsible as the conversation unfolds.  If it was my friend’s fault, then she is to own up to it and find out what the client needs in order to keep the relationship and project on track.

Customer service isn’t always easy.  I think many small business owners find it challenging when they not only have to manage business development, marketing, production, administrative duties, etc., but they also have to manage dissatisfied clients.  It is time consuming, it is distracting, but it is worth it.  Frequently small business owners can turn a difficult situation around and wind up with a very loyal customer.