Steve Kaplan's Blog

April 27, 2010

Lessons

Filed under: Steve Insight — stevekaplan @ 11:19 am

We’ve all dealt with client crises.  They are bound to happen. Keep in mind, your clients know the occasional snafu is bound to happen; what they’re watching for is how you’ll handle it.  Below is a list of key points I’ve learned in dealing with the inevitable client crisis.

office snafu

Do whatever it takes to fix it. The future business you sand to make or lose almost always outweighs the cost of dealing with the immediate crisis.

Take responsibility, no matter whose fault it was.  You can take part of the blame, but never none of it.  In almost every crisis there is something you could have done which would have averted the problem.

Act swiftly and effectively. Don’t just hope the problem will go away by itself. Sometimes people just want to vent their anger and be heard, and swift action will often put out the fire. Be a good ear, express concern for the client’s situation, then try to close off the issue.  Most people are programmed to expect a “not my fault” response.  Try a simple apology; this usually does the trick,

Step in and take charge. Don’t rely on the person who caused the crisis to manage it competently. Everyone likes to deal with stand-up people, and big customers are no different. True character surfaces under duress.  Use the crisis to prove yourself.

Don’t assign blame. Bottom-covering and finger-pointing can only diminish you in the eyes of others.  The client is more interested in how the crisis is handled than who caused the problem.

Stay calm. Deal with the crisis in ways that will make you friends, not enemies. Maintain your poise and your sense of humor; it will help your client do the same.  Use the opportunity to close ranks with your client as you work toward a solution.  Your ability to keep your composure and lead will rule the day.

Communicate. Stay in close touch with the client; be reassuring if you can, but never lie or cover up.  Once your client becomes aware of the crisis, the worst thing you can do is not keep her fully informed.  Understand that her boss and other departments will probably be asking questions. You don’t want to put her in an “I don’t know” position- she’ll never forgive you for it.

Keep your eye on the ball. Even when up to your big pass in alligators, don’t lose site of the larger goals: the success of this project, and winning future contracts.

Remember: Your clients know the occasional snafu is bound to happen; what they’re watching  is how you handle it.

Image Courtesy of Neukku via Flickr.

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