How to keep mistakes with clients from turning cancerous.

Don’t you hate it when a client emails you: “You know, I feel really ignored. Why haven’t you responded to my last email?”

Or how about: “This class isn’t working for me. I’m in a completely different place with my situation from the other participants, and you aren’t following me at all.” And of course: “What’s that thing on your website? Is it a squashed bug? Boy, your website is ugly.”

You make mistakes with them all the time. Really heartening, ain’t it?

You forget to send an email you promised. A report is full of typos, or a contract has the wrong name on it. You’re massaging someone and press too hard, and never checked to see if the amount of pressure was okay.

And then sometimes it’s not your mistake.

A client feels shy and doesn’t ask for help, and you never know it. Nevertheless, they boil with resentment and feelings of being ignored.

Someone has bought one of your products, and they forget to give you a different shipping address from the billing address, and the product gets to them, but very late.

Your fault? Of course not. Still damaging to your business? You bet it is.

Bad news for you, the best news for you. The best news?

When is the best time to hear about cancer?

Let’s face it: there is never a good time to hear bad news from your doctor, or your client. But, if you’ve got to hear it, wouldn’t it be best to hear it earlier rather than later?

Fear of that bad news keeps us hiding under the covers. Despite all the warning signs, it’s easy to ignore when something is off. And we never ask. And they never tell.

It takes a lot of gumption to complain.

You see, as insecure as you feel at times, your clients feel the same way. They don’t want to be thought of as a ‘problem child.’ They also don’t want to get into an argument, or sour the relationship.

They might feel that their problem isn’t worthwhile, that’s it’s just a little niggle of an issue. So they don’t say anything. And the niggle grows. And grows. And grows.

Are you asking for the bad news?

You may think that asking your clients for the bad news will remind them of how miserable you are at what you do, bringing the ax down on your relationship.

But, it doesn’t. Strangely enough, people like it. They like you better. And, what’s best, is that it gives you a chance to fix a problem before it gets really bad.

So ask for it. Ask “What’s wrong.” Ask it often. Over and over. At first you won’t hear much, but over time your clients will trust you more and more, and you’ll hear more and more.

It’s a painful thing to do. And you may want to squirm out of following through with this. If that’s your inclination, then stay with me just a little longer.

Keys to Making the Best of Bad News.

• Find some empathetic support.

Hearing problems and criticisms from clients is not fun. It just isn’t. And, when you open the door, you may well hear some anger, resentment, frustration as well.

Before you do it, line up some folks who can give you some empathy and some space to be with your own emotions. To help you take a deep breath and not take it personally. It’s not personal.

Remember that the only reason they are telling you this stuff is because you made it safe enough. People don’t tell problems when it’s not safe. They only complain when there is enough trust and safety to do so. It’s a good sign. It just doesn’t feel that way.

For this reason, you may want to start out asking for the feedback in written form, so you can take your time with it.

• Give them empathy.

Once you’ve received empathy, you will want to give your clients empathy. Let them know: “Wow, I bet you’re angry (frustrated, sad, upset, disappointed) about that. I really hear you.” And let yourself see it from their point of view, so it’s authentic.

That empathy is the most important part, because without it, they won’t care about whether you fix it or not. They’ll still have these unresolved emotions, even once things get better.

• Fix the problem.

Now that empathy’s been handed all around, you can actually make it right. You fix your mistakes, change the structure of your class, be more attentive, whatever it is that’s needed.

You can also let people know that it’s gone on a to-do list. You may not be able to fix it immediately, but with authentic empathy, they will have more patience.

Unspoken problems from clients have a way of becoming cancerous. They can kill your business faster than you know.

If you ask for the bad news often and early, your own clients help make your business better, stronger, and more effective. And you will build trust with them like never before.