Maintaining good relationships with your clients is critical for business growth. Many prosperous businesses are built on favourable word-of-mouth. Strong client relationships mean more repeat business and more referrals. Dissatisfied clients tell their associates and subsequently ruin the business image in the marketplace. There is the risk of an unsatisfied client bringing their complaints to public attention which can be detrimental to business.
At the heart of all client dissatisfaction is a disparity between client expectations and the service provided. The key to maintaining good client relations is in understanding and managing client expectations.
How to Handle Common Root Causes of Client Dissatisfaction:
Service does not live up to client expectations: In your clients mind, he or she, has an internal representation of how a service should perform. They have a preconceived idea of the benefits they will receive, the problems your service will solve and the quality of work that will be delivered. If a service does not live up to these expectations, they will be dissatisfied. It is important to engage in a constant dialogue with clients to ensure the service meets their internal representation. Since services are intangible, client expectations are more subjective. Demonstrate the tangible aspects of a service to create more objectivity. Show your clients the deliverables that you produce. For example, as an Accountant, I can show samples of financial reports, business plans, business models etc. This way the client has physically seen the outcome of the service.
Over promising: Managing client expectations plays a key role in long term satisfaction. Over promising may help win the business in the short term, however, if a company does not deliver on their promise it creates disparity between the client expectations and the service. Over promising and can often occur if there is a breakdown in understanding between marketing and the staff executing the service. Marketing departments may promise the world in advertisements but may be unaware of limitations arising from the practical day to day aspects of executing the company service. To solve this problem marketing communications needs to be coordinated with service staff.
Misunderstanding client needs: This can be prevented by doing a thorough needs analysis, active listening and empathising with the client. Misunderstanding client needs can lead to mismatched service specifications. Work closely with the client to ensure that the service is on track. Get their feedback along the way. Make an effort to obtain accurate information about the clients evolving expectations. This provides an opportunity to take corrective action before it is too late. Companies can use technology such as databases to track important events in the client relationship, new needs that arise and changes expectations.
Essential to maintaining client satisfaction is the early detection of service gaps. If a company is unaware of their client dissatisfaction, they have no opportunity to make amends. Many clients do not report dissatisfaction, so pro-active steps need to be taken to ensure that the client is happy with the business service.
Alan Tollemache has a substantial track record of success i