The last of this weeks 5 key account conundrums and this one was perhaps this most difficult.
This came from Sascha in the US. She asked
"How do you win back a clients trust when you completely fail but you know it wasn't your fault?"
This one was a little more complex. After spending some time speaking with Sascha and hearing her story there are some great lessons to be learned.
In Sascha’s case she is part of a small but growing company but there are some major problems with the product. The clients she is managing aren’t happy. She loves the company but felt really stuck and uncertain about where things would go.
I’d like to share three ideas I shared with Sascha that might help you. If you’re ever in a messy situation with a very important customer. I hope you can take one approach from these three to help you in it (believe me I've been there before).
Be prepared to be vulnerable and communicate immediately
It's not something you're taught or trained for in business. The moment where Murphy's law kicks in and whatever could happen has just happened to you and your account. For Sascha and for you the first point of call is too take a moment because your emotion might be high. Communicate with a colleague and write down exactly what has happened so it's very clear in your mind. Write down the what's happened, why its happened, the potential impact and the steps you're taking to solve it. Then communicate with your client immediately. This action alone will put you in a much stronger and positive position with your client. You'll be more confident with what you share and actions you can take. Ask someone senior in your company to support and verify what you've said so they see the importance and urgency you've placed on solving it. This may not stop them from being upset but it does allow you to start the conversation in solution and not problem. If you're late to respond it can make it difficult to come back.
Look for other ways to help outside of the problem
Once we see the problem and are dealing with it we can easily get caught up in solving the problem. You should never forget what it may feel like for your client who is waiting. what do you do in the interim? Take a moment and think about the impact this may have on your client. Are there any immediate or creative ways you can help them today outside of your product or solution. For example. It could mean offering to get on the phone with end users and managing the communication on behalf of your client. Or if a project was in mid flow. Do you have extra internal capacity to take on a specific type of work on behalf of your customer. Whatever that might be look for one that is right for you and your business. You know your customer.
Have a contingency deadline
What if the problem takes longer than you think to resolve. There are only so many 'we're working on it' calls you can have before you sound unconvincing and incapable. Now is the time even if you've you don''t have a problem to think about how you solve any problem. Even as a key account manager you need contingencies. With your company you need to decide what the acceptable length of time will be to solve a known common problem and potential large problems (you'll have to define what that is for you). Once you have the acceptable length of time to solving a problem, any time after that is where you contingency action kicks in. Your contingency deadline will be the options of temporary solutions you can provide your client if the problem has not been resolved. I have three to four contingencies in my own business. The great power in this is it takes the pressure off. When communicated with your client they have the security of a solution within the context of a time frame and without fear of loss.
- What are your thoughts on this topic?
- What would you do?
- Do you agree with with what i've shared?
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