As software consultants, we’ve all been there–a client calls you up frustrated about something that went wrong and blames your consulting company. It’s usually not your fault but that’s not something to tell your client when they’re upset.

No software consulting company can function without clients. However, when you get frustrated phone calls it can make you want to pull your hair out. Client meltdowns are unavoidable. You’re going to have to deal with a couple a year at minimum. That’s okay though.

We’ve been around a long time and this post will teach you how to keep your client calm and find ways to minimize the frequency of meltdowns in the future. Here are 8 tips that will help you keep your client calm no matter what:

Tip #1
Remember that it’s all about your client. The first step in successfully handling a frustrated client is to remember that this is solely about them and it’s not about you. If they’ve reached out to you specifically it’s your chance to save the day.

Silent frustration can quickly ruin a business relationship so if your client is reaching out they still trust you enough to quickly and effectively resolve the problem. Make them feel heard, help them calm down, and take control of the situation.

According to research by Zendesk, an unhappy client is 50% more likely to share their unpleasant experience with others. Negative attention isn’t going to do anything for your business so start working to resolve client frustrations as soon as they are brought to your attention.

Tip #2
Give your client a call. If your client reached out to you via a frustrated email or an irritated tweet, shift the conversation to a personal phone call as soon as possible. Doing so will reduce the risk of miscommunication big time. It will also make it easier to adjust what you say as the conversation goes on.

If your client calls you out of the blue and immediately starts unloading their frustrations take notes throughout the conversation to keep track of the problem. If you miss a call and your client leaves you a voicemail, make every effort to call them back the same day.

Tip #3
Be an active listener. Being an active listener involves three things:

  • Listening
  • Demonstrating that you’ve listened
  • Asking follow-up questions

You want your client to know that you fully understand the issue. Taking notes can help with this as long as you don’t let the note-taking distract you from being an active listener.

Tip #4
Act fast. The longer you wait to address a frustration with your client the more likely they are going to jump to worst case scenario conclusions and get even more irritated. We know as well as you do that every problem cannot be solved immediately. That’s just life.

But you can ensure that your client knows you’re taking their problem seriously and making every effort to resolve it. Acting fast can defuse a problem before it gets out of hand and help keep your client calm.

Tip #5
Ask your client about their ideal outcome. Never assume that you know what your client wants. Not every frustrated client wants their money back. The majority of them just want to know that you can and will come through for them when they turn to you for help. You’re their consultant, after all, it’s your job.

Give your client the chance to explain what they’re looking for. You’ll probably be surprised and discover it’s less than you were willing to provide. In the event that it isn’t, tell them you need to discuss with your team and will follow up soon.

Tip #6
Follow up! Like we said before, it’s okay if you can’t resolve every issue on the spot. You should let your client know when you can follow up though and then, ya know, actually follow up.

While you’re at it, this is a great time to ask for any emails, screenshots, or other documentation your client can provide to help you better understand the problem and resolve it as fast as possible.

Tip #7
Give your client a plan. You’ve listened to the problem and you’ve reassured your client that everything will be taken care of. Now what? Let your client know exactly how you plan to set things right.

Base your plan off of your client’s ideal outcome as much as you can. If you can’t fix what caused your client’s meltdown in one easy step keep them calm by providing updates throughout the problem resolution process. Keep communication open until your client is happy and everything will be just fine.

Tip #8
Talk about how you can avoid similar problems in the future. The best software consulting companies are committed to continuous improvement. This means you must be willing to learn from your mistakes (and successes). After you’ve kept your client calm and resolved their issue sit down with your team and discuss what worked, what didn’t, and what you can do differently next time.

This can help you uncover any patterns behind client meltdowns and make adjustments that ensure specific meltdowns won’t occur anymore in the future.

Nobody wants their clients to be unhappy. We hope these tips help you keep your clients calm while you handle the issue that prompted them to contact you in the first place.