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  1. When you’re dealing with a complaining client, let them vent as long as they’re not abusive. Don’t interrupt what they’re saying. Let them tell their story and describe how upset they may be. Doing this allows them to release pent-up negative energy and the sooner they let this out the sooner they’ll calm down and be able to have a more productive conversation.
  2. Agree with the client. One of the fastest and most effective methods to diffuse client anger is to find a way to agree with them. Say something like, “You’ve got a right to be upset,” or “I can understand why you’re mad — I would be, too, in this situation.” This can literally stop an upset or angry client in their tracks when the fight that they expected from you never happened. If the next thing you say is something like, “Let me see what I can do to make it right,” you’ll immediately take the discussion from a negative one to one that constructively solves the problem.
  3. In certain cases it’s appropriate to ask the client to identify the solution that they would like. Say, “We really want you to be completely satisfied. What would you consider to be a fair solution?” If you can meet the client’s request, do so. If you cannot meet the request, outline the steps you can take.
  4. Give your undivided attention to clients who are having a problem. Stop whatever you’re doing and focus on the client. If you’re face-to-face be sure to maintain eye contact and be conscious of maintaining open body language. Remember, you are trying to restore this client’s confidence in your firm.
  5. Set expectations correctly right from the start. Give clients honest estimates of timelines, such as how long they’ll have to wait for a document to be produced, how long it will take to schedule a hearing, or how long it will take to go through different phases of the litigation process. If you’re unclear, give a range: 30 to 60 days or one to two months, but try to never underestimate. By doing so you are setting yourself up for a problem.
  6. If a client is ranting and raving, use their name quietly and then wait. You might have to say it a second time, but most people will stop when they hear their name and they will generally respond with yes. If they respond in this way, you have the chance to steer the discussion toward one that is more constructive.
  7. Keep a notepad close by. If you sense that a client has a problem or a complaint start making notes right away. Clients will get upset if they have to tell their story more than once because you failed to capture the details the first time around.
  8. Once you’ve resolved the client’s complaint put a note in the database indicating that they should receive special attention during the next conversation. You really want to avoid subjecting your clients to two bad experiences in a row. If that happens, there’s every chance that you will have lost them forever as a client.
  9. Keep a stash of small give away items such as gift certificates for local restaurants or services. Offer these tokens whenever your firm is clearly at fault and you want to do something extra special for clients as part of your problem-solving process.
  10. Think of problem solving as something of a game, and you win this game by turning an angry client into a happy client. You lose the game if you lose your cool.
Atticus, Inc.

This article was written by an Atticus staff member.

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