“I came in at my usual time for our session and you weren’t here!”
“I came in for a Pilates lesson and now my back hurts!”
In terms of guarantees in life, unhappy clients are right up there with death and taxes. Instead of viewing these situations as problems to be avoided, you might as well embrace them and learn how to engineer the best possible outcomes!
Step 1. Listen
Really listen, and let them feel heard. It goes a long way toward building trust and letting them know that you prioritize how they are feeling.
This is the hardest step, especially if you’re feeling like this wasn’t your fault.
“She should have remembered that you rescheduled for a different time this week!”
- “He should have known that it was likely snow shoveling that injured his back, not Pilates!”
It can be all too easy to get defensive and try to explain things from your point of view, but the other person may feel like you aren’t listening or you don’t care. Problem-solving comes later; for now, listen.
Step 2. Verify
Once you’ve let the client get everything out, show that you’ve been listening by verifying their most important point. Don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions!
“It sounds like we didn’t communicate clearly about the time change for this week. Do you recall getting an email or text about the rescheduling?” (Listen some more.)
- “I can understand how frustrating back pain is, especially when you are so active. When did the pain start?” (Listen some more)
This step can also save you a lot of frustration as it ensures that you’re both focusing on the same issue. Few things are worse than a conversation that is going nowhere because you’re each addressing separate concerns!
Step 3. Solve
Sometimes all the client wants is an apology. Sometimes it’s assurances that this bad thing won’t happen again. Whatever the case, you’re looking for something that works for you both.
You may have a solution in mind, but it can also be good to ask about what the other person’s is hoping to get out of the conversation. You may be surprised by their answer!
“I’m sorry that this miscommunication happened. Let’s work out a better way to communicate appointments at a different time than usual. Okay?” This can be via email, text, sticky note, or anything else that works for you both!
- “I’m sorry that your back is sore. I have some exercises in mind that might make your back feel better. Would you like to try some today?”
If you have a solution for your client, share it and ask a question to see if they’re on board to try it out. This gives them a say in the process, verifies that they agree with the plan, and lets them bring up any lingering concerns.
If you don’t have an ideal solution immediately, don’t be afraid to admit it. Let her know that you’ll get back to her in a few days, and then do. Make notes or set alarms to ensure you follow up!
Step 4. Wrap up
“Thanks for bringing this to my attention; I’ll take care of it.”
“I’m glad we could solve this together.”
“I think this is a great plan. Let’s follow up in a couple of weeks and see how it’s working.”
Keep things simple and positive, and then you can focus back on Pilates!
Question for You
Have you ever had to deal with an unhappy client? How did you handle it? Are you happy with how you handled the situation?
Heather Armstrong: Heather is a writer, swing dancer and former member of the BODY HARMONICS Front Desk Team. She is does an outstanding job of putting smiles on everyone’s faces every day!