The Account Manager is an extension of the sales team; instead of focusing on bringing on new clients, the Account Management/Client Services team’s central focus is to establish and maintain strong client relationships. Account Managers are tasked with executing what has been purchased and cultivating a relationship that results in contract renewal, repeat business, and referrals. Over the years working directly with clients, I have found relationships are best built by developing and implementing processes to deliver what my client has purchased successfully.
As the Senior Account Manager here at iPullRank, my daily focus includes relationship management, deadline adherence, project management, and contract/renewal negotiation. It’s my responsibility to make sure my clients are happy, and I create a safe space to address the rare occasion when a client is unhappy.
Here are my five tips on saving a client relationship when things go south.
1. Less talking, More listening
If there is a communication breakdown or an issue with a client, you must address them. The best way to do that is to create a space for open dialogue. A client relationship can devolve due to a series of missteps and mistakes which put a project timeline and the client relationship in grave danger; if there is a breakdown, you acknowledge it.
Give your client space to “air their grievances;” if something goes awry with a client, I find booking a call with key team members on both sides to hear my clients out and hear what has gone wrong. I try to keep in mind not to become defensive and instead adopt a solution-based stance. This in no way suggests that you don’t correct any misconceptions or mischaracterizations, but there is no winner in having a contentious back and forth with an already upset client.
Reflect on what you have heard to rectify the situation and craft a plan of action to get things back on track.
2. Craft an Action Plan
If you encounter a dissatisfied client who is saying you’ve done wrong, odds are there is still a chance to make things right. Develop a thoughtful, simple, and straightforward plan to move forward with clear time frames to rectify the issue at hand. Once you have crafted the plan of action, it’s best to reach out, put time on your client’s calendar to connect and review your plan. It’s imperative to get the aggrieved client’s agreement/buy-in; I have found being very explicit with how I plan to fix things and establishing a safe space to give my client a chance to express if they are not happy with the resolution presented and confirm we agree. Once an agreement is established, a recap email is a perfect way to end things and move on.
3. Keep in Touch
No one likes to feel ignored or overlooked, especially someone paying for your time and services. If a client has expressed an issue with communication frequency, it is good to communicate that their emails will be responded to within 24 hours during the business week. If you are buried with work, a quick email to say “you will look at this later on” can show your attentiveness.
Also, be sure you are connecting enough face to face; does the client prefer to speak weekly, are they swamped and want to talk bi-monthly. I had a client who felt that my standard weekly status calls were a waste of their time; after some prodding, I found this out and made adjustments to ensure they felt their time was being used properly. I try to let my clients direct me on what is best as it relates to communication.
It is beneficial to label calendar invites explicitly; the invite label should answer the age-old question “What is the purpose of this meeting”; also, be sure to send meeting agendas and post-meeting wrap-up/next steps notes. The more the client hears from you, the better.
4. Don’t Be Sorry; Be better
Empty apologies and contrition might feel good, but if nothing comes afterward, then it’s a pretty useless act. After you apologize, clarify what you will do to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Bring your client into the process, and be sure to get their buy-in to your plan to make things right. And be a person of your word. Don’t disappoint again.
5. Show Your Work
The best way to turn things around is with results. Evidence defeats doubt every single time. Use Monthly or Quarterly Business Review sessions to reiterate the positive effects of the engagement. I am a massive fan of the Quarterly Business Review; it gives my team and me a chance to show my client and sometimes their bosses all the great work we have done and our impact on our client’s organization.
Never miss a chance to shine a positive light on your work. Especially after a hiccup or mishap, it’s an opportunity to check-in with the client and ensure they feel the benefit of the adjustments and changes.
Happy Clients, Happy Life
At iPullRank, our Client Services team approaches Account Management with a problem-solving mindset. Our goal is to ensure our clients get everything they expect from their engagement and more. On the rare occasion that we fall short of our clients’ expectations, we are committed to rectifying the issue and making things right. This approach has allowed us to maintain long term client relationships, repeat engagements, and consistent client referrals.
If you would like to learn more about how iPullRank can help your team reach their organizational goals, please reach out to one of our Account Executive.
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