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An Unhappy Client

Brandon Beacher

How do you turn an unhappy client into a satisfied one? No matter how long you’ve been in business, you’ll eventually have a client who isn’t pleased. Highgroovers strive for constant client satisfaction, but we have tips for turning a frustrated client into a repeat one.

If you suspect a client is unhappy, communicate early and often.

None of us wants to admit it when our client is unhappy. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • We hope that we’ll be able to fix the problem before anyone else finds out.
  • We don’t want our co-workers to think less of us.
  • We’re worried that we might get a poor performance review, get skipped on an upcoming raise or even get fired.

At Highgroove, we recommend communicating early and often. Talk to your co-workers; they are there to support you when things get tough. It can be difficult to let your guard down and ask for help, but you will be relieved to realize that you don’t have to go it alone. Together, you can work as a team to restore client happiness.

We also recommend increasing communication with the unhappy client. When we’re faced with an unpleasant situation we might:

  • Find ourselves hesistating to respond to phone calls or emails.
  • Imagine that the issue will be forgotten or resolve itself on its own.
  • Become overly focused on finding a solution at the expense of communication.

It’s better to address the unhappy client early and directly. Slow or nonexistent communication can cause your client to panic–not only do they have a problem, but now they have no one to fix it! Always reply quickly, letting your customer know that you’re aware of the issue and moving towards a solution. Then keep them updated on your progress.

Resist the urge to go overboard on attempts to restore happiness.

When a client is unhappy, we often want to go to great lengths to improve the situation. You might be tempted to pull developers from another project and add them to the distressed one. Or you might ask developers to work late into the night and over the weekend in an attempt to catch up. You may find yourself no longer following your best practices as you try to recover lost ground.

We recommend sticking to your established process, especially when the going gets tough! Otherwise, you might go too far to satisfy a client’s request to speed things up. Would you pull your entire team and put them on the distressed project? Would you ask your developers to work 16 hours a day? Would you skip source control and edit code directly on the production server?

Going overboard is actually likely to slow things down and make your client even more unhappy, rather than improving the situation. It may be easiest to say yes when an unhappy client asks for more developers, longer hours or shortcuts, but taking the easiest way isn’t the best way. As Fred Brooks pointed out in The Mythical Man- Month, “adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.”

Instead, we recommend attempting to explain these counter-inituitive truths of software development. Give your client the opportunity to understand that you are acting in their best interest by sticking to your established process.

Have you ever had an unhappy client? How did you respond?

Image credit: photocapy

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