In the first part of this series, I talked about recognizing your clients' Social Styles and tailoring your interactions to encourage them to trust you. So we have some tools to keep clients happy, but what happens if things start to go awry anyway? Back-up behaviors are another TRACOM term, but essentially they are a swing in behavior that indicates your client is starting to pull away.
What does it look like when your client starts getting fed up? Personally, I’m an expressive. So if I were your client and I were really upset, I would start attacking your credentials. “Well, I’m just not sure you have the skills we need.” Uh oh. You can hear the air raid siren now. Things have just taken a dangerous turn.
An analytical avoids. They might start literally avoiding contact attempts and meetings, for example. In-person they might shut down and avoid answering any further questions.
A driving person becomes autocratic. They were already controlling the situation, but they’ve now moved into, “If I want it done right, I have to do it myself” mode.
And an amiable acquiesces. They just give in to whatever it is you are offering them. This is dangerous because, they DO have opinions. So if they are just waving a white flag to get out of the confrontation, they may turn right around and get what they want another way.
At the earliest signs of client frustration, call in reinforcements. You're on a team–a team of varied and talented individuals–so when you start to see cracks in the veneer, ask for help. Sometimes a fresh face/perspective/personality in the room can ease tensions. And remember that now both you and your teammate(s) should be catering to your frustrated client's social style. Give them an extra dose of whatever it is they need.
In the real world, it is inevitable that there will be confrontation and frustration. Tight deadlines, staff shortages, shifting corporate goals and so much more contribute to the stress that keeps each project tenuous. No matter how much lead time I've been given on a project there was always some kink that threw everything and everyone for a loop. It's the nature of the business. It's also why agility and agile teams are such industry trends right now.
The goal is not to avoid disagreement and frustration. I would actually have to question the merit of your product if no one was ever challenged. The goal is to learn to recognize when your clients (and your teammates) are getting frustrated and how to transition out of it productively. My most grateful, past clients have almost all been clients I had to tell "no" at some point. When you can come out of tension, with them trusting your expertise more, the reward is far-stretching loyalty.
Realizing that simple changes to the way you communicate and interact with your clients can help them trust, value and return to you, can be a game-changing revelation. Add to that, the reassurance that when challenges occur, you can navigate out of them and actually come out stronger. Suddenly taking care of your clients becomes less "duh" and more "ah-hah!"
The more you practice it, the better you'll become. And soon, you'll enjoy the reputation your skills merit.
Thanks and happy creating!