If you’re an entrepreneur, as I am, you’re usually interested in expanding your client base. But one of the challenges I’ve found is finding reliable service providers.  Case in point: Recently, I hired a company to work on the SEO for my website. I wanted to improve my Google ranking so people could find The Language Lab more easily.

As with some SEO companies, this particular group offered predesigned packages that included writing website content, as well as improving the technical aspects of SEO. I didn’t need them to write website content for me, because writing is my business. So, I suggested they focus on optimizing the site for key words, etc. to make sure the site was SEO-friendly. And leave the writing to me. The sales associate told me they preferred not to deviate from the preset packages. She assured me that I’d be pleased with their writers’ work.

‘Might as well give it a try,’ I thought.

The results? Not so good. Every bit of content the company created was riddled with typos and incorrect information. For months I’d point out these problems to my sales rep. Each time her responses would be along the lines of, “I won’t argue with you, you’re right,” or, “I would feel the same way in your shoes.”

If I hadn’t been so frustrated I would have laughed. Here was this person representing a company that was doing poor work agreeing with me that the work wasn’t good; yet offering no solutions.

Months past, and finally I said, “Enough!” Why should I pay to be frustrated, annoyed, and distressed?

As always with any business experience I learned something. In this instance, it was that one of the worst things you can do to a client is to over promise and under perform. Ignoring your client’s true needs because you have a preset notion of what will work, a kind of “one size fits all” mentality, really can backfire.  Following is a tongue-in-cheek list I created to underscore the point.

How to Alienate Clients

Patronize Them: Offer false sympathy (“I would feel the same way if I were you”) and meaningless pat statements (“I can’t argue with you”). Never take action, investigate the problem, or offer a solution.

Offer Self-Praise: Tell clients what a great job you’ve done, despite the client’s obvious displeasure.  Don’t bother to find out what more you could do for them.

Hide: Don’t act on the client’s needs, or check with them to see if they are happy with the work being done. Assume everything is fine, and if the client tells you otherwise, well, they’re wrong!

Never Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: If errors are made that even you simply cannot deny, do your best not to offer any form of compensation.

Do Shoddy Work: Make sure not to check that communications materials are thoughtful, correct, appropriate, and devoid of typos and errors.

Don’t Listen: Don’t, by all means, develop your listening skills. This belies better communication and accountability.

Joking aside, the above list of behaviors is sure to alienate clients. And that’s not what you want to do. You want to serve the customer. As Brian Dahl says at dkyinc.com, “At the end of the day, it’s not the great features, or the patented design, or the proven technology, or the clever campaign that matters. What matters most is the customer.”

Ultimately, business people need to always remember this basic fact: It’s easier to lose clients than to gain them, as pointed out in the article,How to Lose Clients without Really Trying: It’s Easy to Lose Clients – the Trick Is Knowing Why and What to Do about It.

Even if times are flush for your business, it’s important to make sure that your existing clients are happy. And you need to be paving the way for new clients, should the need arise. So why would you ever want to alienate a client? If you tell me that alienating a client is one of your goals, well, all I can say is, “I won’t argue with you, but you’re wrong.”

To boost your communication skills and win more clients, contact The Language Lab to find out how.

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