Effectively Dealing With Client Disappointment

By: Lori T. Williams, Owner/Managing Attorney of Your Legal Resource

We all love Raving Fans, but occasionally a client doesn’t like the outcome. Perhaps the professional they hired didn’t provide the service they were expecting.  How you handle these circumstances can determine whether or not you preserve that client relationship.  I’ve found the following tactics to be effective in “cleaning up messes”, whether they were my own or those of someone I referred the client to:

1)       Own Up To It.  Accept responsibility for your part in it, whether you caused all or some of the problem in the mind of the client.  Even if you feel you were a Rock Star who performed flawlessly, you can still accept responsibility for not living up to the client’s expectations.  That’s a perfect time to review what the expectations were and what you agreed to do, in case the client forgot or in case these points were never discussed.  (If the latter is the case, it is time to put some written policies and procedures in place to avoid this problem next time around).  The client mainly wants to be heard, understood, and responded to.  How you go about that, can make or break the relationship.

2)       Communicate Promptly.  Don’t run and hide hoping the problem will go away, it won’t.  You will leave an indelible impression in the mind of the client that you don’t care about them and everything they think about your “mistake” is 100% accurate.  The problem may even grow out of proportion in their mind, if the client is left alone to fester.  It can destroy a perfectly good brand if you choose to ignore the situation, in an attempt to avoid conflict.

3)      Make it Right.  If at all possible, make amends and correct the situation.  This may be easier said than done, depending on the situation.  For instance, attorneys can’t turn an unfavorable court decision into a favorable one, but they can appeal in some cases.  Attorneys can also zealously represent their client during the process, and they are sworn by oath and bound by rules of professional responsibility to do so.  If your client knows you were in their corner throughout the fight, they won’t blame you for the outcome, especially if you told them before you began the process that their realistic chances of winning were slim.  However, in cases where you can make it right, do so.  This might look like refunding the unused portion of the retainer, or completing a process that wasn’t complete, or otherwise doing what you promised to do.  Be realistic in your promises and deliver on them if you want to maintain a good strong brand.  Integrity is everything!

Clients generally aren’t expecting perfection, but they deserve your time, attention, value of services, and your best effort.  Sure we sometimes encounter the client who simply can’t be pleased, but you probably sensed that in the first few meetings and chose to work with them anyway.  Find out what it will take for them to be satisfied and if it is within reason, do it!

Points to Ponder and Share:

What was your worst “client nightmare” and how did you resolve the situation?

Do you have any effective tactics for dealing with hard to please clients?

Do you have any examples of times you went the extra mile to preserve the client relationship?

Lori T. Williams

Lori T. Williams is an attorney based in Birmingham, MI, licensed in 1989.  As owner of a legal referral business called Your Legal Resource, PLLC, Lori personally assists individuals and small businesses in need of legal advice or representation in Metro Detroit by connecting them with the right legal specialist to meet their needs.