On the surface every business knows that they need to do right by their clients. After all without clients, there is no business. However in day-to-day interactions this principle can get muddied. Sometimes we feel a client is being unreasonable or we just don’t have the time or patience to deal with a complaint when it comes up. Sometimes company policy or procedure negatively impacts client relationships. It’s important that all professionals are empowered with flexibility to deal with client problems and held accountable to meeting client needs.
One big caveat to being customer centric is identifying good clients vs. problem clients. Problem clients continually have complaints and are rarely satisfied by any corrective action. They actually negatively impact the bottom line because too much time or effort is spent appeasing them. If a client is problematic then it’s usually better to sever the relationship. In all other cases, professionals need to be client centric and meet requests.
An example of not being client centric presented itself recently. I am friends with a couple, Heather and Jack, who are coupon addicts. Any time they go out or shop they are sure to have a coupon with them. One evening I went to dinner with them. As we were seated Heather told the waiter that she had a coupon and asked if he needed it before eating. He said no, that he would take care of it when we were ready to pay the bill.
So we ate and all enjoyed the restaurant. When the bill came, Heather proudly presented two coupons. The waiter took our check and when he returned the manager was with him. The manager apologized and said they could not accept both coupons. He would however, apply the higher valued one. Heather was miffed and said, “I’ve eaten here several times before and it hasn’t been a problem.” The manager again apologized and said it was the restaurant policy.
Heather is not the kind of person to let something go. As we left the restaurant she pulled out a calculator and started plugging in numbers. Outraged she stated, “Honoring the two coupons would have been less than a $10 difference.” She swore she would never eat there again and I’ve personally witnessed her provide poor reviews to others.
Now it could certainly be argued that Heather overreacted. After all if she felt the $10 difference was no big deal for the restaurant, wasn’t it equally insignificant if not applied? That doesn’t change the fact that she was a good client. She and Jack had eaten there several times and were never stingy with their bill. Sometimes good clients will get upset. Sometimes it’s justified and other times it isn’t. As long as the client is not a recurring problem it pays to take steps to satisfy them. Sometimes the normal process, like only accepting one coupon, just doesn’t fit an individual situation.
So do you take individual client needs into account or do you stand pat on policy? Policies can be very effective as guidelines but there are instances where client’s requests take precedent. Bending the rules at the right time will help strengthen a client relationship. Of course, there need to be guidelines or price limitations on what can be done but some flexibility to appropriately meet client needs can significantly increase client loyalty which is sure to strengthen revenue.