9 Tips to Repairing a
Bad Client Relationship

When you work in the client service industry, you’re going to have a client relationship go bad at some point — it’s just the nature of the business. When that happens, don’t despair, because there are ways to fix your mistakes and move forward stronger than ever. Here are our top nine tips for repairing a bad client relationship, from creating a plan of action to sending them corporate gifts for clients:

Identify The Cause
While you might be tempted to jump into action once you realize a client relationship is on the rocks, it’s critical that you take a pause to do some analysis before rushing into a solution that might not fix anything. Client relationships may go bad for a multitude of reasons, so you need to sit down and conduct a postmortem on exactly what went wrong.

Did a major website relaunch go totally sideways? Was your team late on a critical deliverable? Did the designer ignore feedback from the client on their new branded merchandise? Just make sure not to draw out this fact-finding phase too long, as leaving the client hanging might make them more upset.

Formulate A Plan of Action
Now that you have identified the cause(s), it’s time to figure out how you are going to solve them. Have your team brainstorm solutions to the issue(s) you have recognized and formulate a concrete plan of action to address them. For instance, if your client has complained about not knowing the status of deliverables, then consider establishing a standing weekly status call where you can update them regularly. If they hate a poster design, offer them a redesign for free that doesn’t count toward their billable hours.

Get Superiors Involved If Necessary
If the client team consists mostly of junior people, bringing in some more senior leadership can help make up for their inexperience and repair the damage more quickly. Bringing in a more senior employee also shows the client that you take their concerns seriously and that you are going the extra mile to show them that you care about their company. This can win you major points in the client’s eyes and help you retain their business despite the current mishap.

Own Up to The Mistake
Before you jump into your plan to solve everything, acknowledge the mistake and own up to your fault. Admitting that you went wrong will probably go a long way toward soothing the client and putting them a better frame of mind. You can even send them an apology promotional gift if that feels like the right move.

If it was the client’s fault and not your company’s, sometimes apologizing anyways can calm them down enough for you all to move forward together. If the client has been causing issues for a while and this shows no signs of abating, then you need to assess whether this is a relationship worth trying to salvage or if it’s simply not the right fit.

Present The Plan to The Client
Remember that plan your team came up with a couple steps ago? Now that you have acknowledged the problem and apologized for it, possibly with the help of senior leadership, it’s time to tell the client how you are going to fix it. Lay out the plan clearly and concisely, explaining exactly what changes you are going to make moving forward so that this same problem doesn’t happen again. Leave time for questions from the client at the end so that it becomes a two-way conversation instead of a one-way presentation.

Make Clear Deadlines and Meet Them
As part of that presentation, you should establish clear deadlines for whatever new deliverables you are promising the client. Instead of saying “a few days,” say “We’ll get that to you by next Friday” and so on. Make sure that these deadlines are realistic and don’t be afraid to build in a couple extra days of padding for your team. It’s much better to give yourself too much time and not need it than the alternative scenario, especially when your clients are already unhappy with you.

Give Yourself Time
Speaking of deadlines, it’s important that you don’t put pressure on your team or the client to repair the relationship overnight. Things didn’t go sour in the blink of an eye, and it will take time to rebuild the relationship as well. There are bound to be some growing pains as you and the client adjust to the new way of doing things, so be patient and calm with them and give them the benefit of the doubt. You’ll begin to see a difference eventually, we promise!

Switch The Team If Need Be
Sometimes, it can help to give the client a fresh start with a partially or wholly new team. Obviously, in an ideal situation, you wouldn’t want to overhaul the team all at once in order to preserve that past client knowledge. However, if the client has really taken a dislike to some or all of the team members, whether that dislike is justified or not, switching them to a new team can help take the edge off, placate the client and show them that you are listening to their complaints.

Make Yourself Available
Even if your client isn’t usually that communicative, you should still offer to make yourself available for emails, phone calls or video chats during this time of transition. Even if they don’t take you up on it, it’s still a nice gesture that will make a good impression on the client. If they do proactively reach out to you, make it a point to respond even more promptly than usual to create more goodwill and show them that you are making an effort to improve the relationship.

Client relationships can be salvaged if you’re willing to do the work. Follow these nine tips to repair a client relationship on the rocks and get things back on track.