From time to time your IT organization will probably experience a client who is unhappy, , , maybe even one who becomes a “problem client”.
For the most part, your IT organization’s “client” includes the non-IT department managers of your company and their employees. We often call them “Users”.
However, don’t forget the executives of your company. They and their Administrative Assistants are also part of your client base.
You may also have external clients. For example, if you develop and license software, you support the external clients who license the software.
A negative client is bad for your IT organization. What is it they say, “An unhappy client tells 20 other people about their problem.”?
That’s right, bad news spreads like wildfire so it is important to address and resolve an unhappy client situation. The great news is that when you turn an unhappy client around, they can be allies forever.
Unhappy clients are actually opportunities for you and your IT organization. Most clients do not want to be unhappy with their IT support team. Identify the issue and take appropriate action and you are on your way to creating a strong partner.
I use a simple 6-step process to address an unhappy client situation:
Step 1 – Define the problem.
To improve a bad client situation, you must know what the problem is. Your employees may not have a clue as to what the real problems are so you have to interview the client to get to the problem.
Step 2 – Quantify the issues.
In quantifying the problem, you must quantify and articulate the specific issues that come from the client’s discussion. You won’t be able to solve the problem unless you are very specific as to the issues that are causing the problem. After listening to the client, list the issues specifically that must be addressed to resolve the situation.
Step 3 – Gain client agreement on the issues and commitment to what will occur when the issues are addressed.
Once you have listed the issues that must be addressed, gain concurrence from the client until you know you have listed every specific issue to be addressed. When you positively address the issues causing the problem, identify what the client should be committed to do. This might mean paying for outstanding invoices, develop a positive relationship with the IT organization, etc. It must be a win-win for you and the client for this effort to be a success.
Step 4 – Develop an action plan to address the issues and gain client agreement on the plan.
Develop a specific action plan, or project, to positively address all issues. Be conservative in what you plan to commit to in terms of timing, cost, and specific deliverables. In other words, include plenty of buffer and position your organization to over-deliver. Communicate the plan to the client and gain agreement that the action items will positively address the issues identified.
Step 5 – Execute the plan.
Execute the plan and be sure to do a quality and timely job. Remember, this may be your second or third chance so success is critical this time.
Step 6 – Over-communicate status of the plan.
Communicate daily unless everyone agrees that less often is appropriate. When trying to turn a problem client situation around, you must over-communicate.
When you complete the projects that positively address the client’s issues, you may ask the client to fulfill his part of the objective. This may be to pay an invoice, be more supportive of your support organization, or whatever the client agreed to do once the issues have been addressed as discussed in Step 3.
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