Managing Client Relationships
Even the best run organizations occasionally run into
difficult situations with clients, consultants, and vendors. Often
times it is not just a business process that has gone a-rye, it is the
relationship of the people managing the situation. So how is it
that we manage difficult problems and how is it that we coach all the
members of our organization to manage crisis to their (and their
company's) advantage. Here are some helpful tips:
Treat everyone (clients, consultants and vendors) equally, realizing
that everyone from a secretary to a CEO of a corporation can and
will impact your business (in both a positive and a negative way).
Have a written philosophy stating your company's position on how it
expects its employees to interact with people (both inside and
outside of the organization).
Regularly remind your personnel of your policy and enforce it when
necessary. When your corporate culture fully adopts the concept,
the peer pressure will go a long way to enforcing your philosophy.
Well that sounds way too simple, doesn't it?
Yes, but it is a starting point. So the next issue to consider is,
"how do we treat everyone with respect and equality without being
complete pushovers?" After all, you will sometimes have to say
"no." Here are some tips:
Approach all of your difficult issues with a smile. Sounds silly,
but it helps get you in the right frame of mind.
Yes, it has to be said again, treat everyone with respect and
equality and many of your conflicts will never even happen.
When the pot begins to boil with someone (because you don't agree
with their position, you can't help them, they are incorrect, etc.)
then make certain that the person you are working with knows with
certainty that they have been heard and understood (without sarcasm
or attitude). Try repeating your understanding to them so that they
hear you have heard. This effort alone will take enough of
the edge off to resolve the issue.
Now the hard part. You need to say "no" or you "just can't take it
anymore." Here's the strategy...buy time. You need to first
let the person know they have been heard and then find a way to back
out of the heat. It is OK to not provide them an affirmative answer
Take the time to regroup. Back out of the conversation, take time
to ponder the situation, and talk it over with colleagues.
Sometimes you will go back to the person and agree, other times you
will go back to that person with a decision they do not want to
hear. The difference is that they have been heard and they know
they have been heard. This alone will help you to end the
situation on a good note.
In circumstances where you know that your "no" will not be well
received (and could sever a relationship), buying time will provide
you the opportunity to think about the situation with a cool head.
More importantly, you will have the opportunity to talk about the
situation with your colleagues, manager, or partner. Remember, that
you alone (even if you are the partner of a company) should not have
the authority to sever a relationship.