Response, not Bad News, is What Loses Clients
I don’t know about you, but the only thing I like worse than getting bad news is giving it. I remember many times when I sold digital print, we would have a deadline looming and I could tell there was no way we were going to make it. So I would ask the production manager, “Well, when WILL it be ready?” And she would answer, “In two hours.” And two hours later, we were still not ready. And of course I had already called the client to give them the bad news that we would be late. Now I'd have to make ANOTHER call to say we would be even later. This was very unpleasant, put my reputation in jeopardy, and made for very unhappy clients.
When I really thought about it, I knew the production manager was calculating times based on best case scenarios and wishful thinking. So I had a talk with her and explained how crucial accuracy was in calculating these turnaround times. And, I also learned that when she told me a time, I should add on more time to that before calling the client. Call it my little insurance policy—a way to try to promise good, but deliver great, in an already bad situation.
Personally, a similar situation happened to me recently at the spa in my health club. I had an appointment to get my nails done and my daughters were deposited in the child care center, with a two hour time limit. Ten minutes after my appointment was SUPPOSED to be, I was told it would be three more minutes. Forty minutes later, I sat down in the chair. And I was steaming mad. Because that kind of treatment, for whatever reason, seems disrespectful of my time and circumstance.
The technician apologized profusely and explained that the client before me had been late, and then asked for services for which she did not have an appointment. The lesson there is that if you value your clientele as a whole, you have to make decisions based on what is good for everyone.
Had the spa explained that what she (the previous client) was asking for was not in the time budget but they would be more than happy to accommodate her later, things probably would have been fine and they would have managed to keep me as a client. However, you can rest assured I will not be going back.
My point is this. Try with everything you have to keep your word. And when circumstances prevent you from keeping your word, be contrite and solution-focused. The question at the top of your mind should be, “How can I make this better for my client?” Then ask the client that question and, whenever possible, do it.
Even if it costs you a little money in overtime or overnight shipping, do whatever you can to keep loyal customers loyal. They are beyond valuable to you today, more so than ever.
Have you ever had a situation where you have had to deliver bad news? I’m sure we’d all like to hear about it, and any special finesse that you used. Lemme hear it!
Blogger, author, consultant, coach and all around evangelist for the graphic arts industry, Kelly sold digital printing for 15 years so she understands the challenges, frustrations and pitfalls of building a successful sales practice. Her mission is to help printers of all sizes sell more stuff. Kelly's areas of focus include sales and marketing coaching, enabling clients to find engagement strategies that work for them and mentoring the next generation of sales superstars.
Kelly graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Political Science and, among other notable accomplishments, co-founded the Windy City Rollers, a professional women's roller derby league. She is also the mother of two sets of twins under the age of ten, so she fears nothing.