Three Causes of Client Conflict

by | May 4, 2018 | Communication Skills

Do you ever have conflicts with your clients?

Unhappy clients can certainly keep you up at night. You replay the scene, over and over. Why did the issue happen? How could I have prevented it? How will I fix it?

It’s so easy to stress out over our clients since they are the reason for our success. We work so hard to please them and when a setback occurs it seems like the two steps forward takes us three steps back.

Is there a way to prevent conflict from happening? I believe the answer can be found in priorities, motives and setting expectations.

  1. One source of conflict is when we don’t have an adequate understanding of the client’s priorities. Do you know what’s most important to them? Often, their top priority is not the same as ours. You’ve probably experienced this scenario. The client needs your proposal by 5pm Friday, yet you have two other proposals that are more urgent. What do you do? And while yes that’s a good problem to have, you still need to honestly communicate with them about your ability to meet their deadline. Your upfront honesty will build trust and at the same time likely clear the path for you to work on your priorities as you deem most important. It can also help you to avoid the situation from escalating into a true conflict.
  2. The second source of potential conflict is motive. The client needs to know you are committed to having their best interest at heart and will offer the solutions that best meets their needs and solves their problems. No more, no less. Some clients don’t trust sales people because they think the sales person’s number one motive is to maximize their commission. And for some that may be true. A perfect example is bringing your car in for a free 12-point inspection while getting your oil changed. It’s the last day of the month and you suspect they’re going to try closing their month on a high note by maximizing their sales, and you’re in their sights. They try to sell you a brake flush, two new tires and a much-needed serpentine belt. You wonder, do I really need this? Because you have doubt and fear they are trying to upsell you, you no longer trust their motives. The result? Conflict!
  3. Finally, and probably the most common source of conflict is not properly managing the expectations of your client. It seems so easy to promise them whatever they want. Why not? You want to win the sale. But if you can’t deliver what you promise, your reputation and the opportunity for future sales and referrals just went out the window. The goal is to under promise and over deliver. It goes back to the equation for customer delight which is Happiness = Results – Expectations. When you set and manage realistic expectations up front, you’ve now outlined a road map you can both follow that will avoid most conflict. Don’t let a surprise cause an issue.

When you communicate to your clients that your priority is to help them achieve success they’ll know that your motives align with theirs, building trust for the long-term. When we talk up front about expectations for the project – deliverables, timelines and promises, all parties win and are happy. And, isn’t that the goal anyway?

Good selling!

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