It is a fact of life that inevitably difficulties will crop up during your business dealings with you customers. How you deal with those difficulties is crucial for the on-going development of your business relationship.
When difficulties arise
Difficulties can include any issues that have the potential to disrupt the business relationship. They include situations such as:
- A late delivery to your customer
- Having a particularly aggressive negotiation over terms
- Mistakenly giving the customer incorrect information
- Not following through on a commitment you make.
Whilst we do what we can to avoid these situations, when they do arise we need to address even the smallest of difficulties. Just because something is not, on its own, enough to create a big problem it is important to know that if we ignore it or respond in a way that doesn’t truly satisfy the customer then it can then compound. And then the next ‘small thing’ could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
The easy solution
These small individual difficulties are called ‘pinches’ and the Pinch Model describes what happens if we don’t deal with individual pinches effectively.
When we first become aware of a pinch, the temptation might be to resolve it in the quickest way possible. For example, if we send out an incorrect invoice and our customer queries it, we may be tempted to simply correct it and send out a new one.
But this doesn’t address the wider effect of the error. The mistake may have impacted our customer’s trust levels, or made them feel less confidence that we can take care of the detail. They may feel less valued leading them to question other things and the quality of our relationship.
What we should do
When there is a pinch, even if it is only small, we must fully address the issue to prevent future issues building up and damaging the relationship by creating a ‘crunch’.
The first thing to do when we become aware of a possible pinch point is to recognise that this is something that might be really important to the customer, and then use it as a way of going back to them to:
a) let them know we are concerned and want to address the issue in the right way, and
b) use it as an opportunity to create more clarity on how we will be working together going forward to avoid similar issues occurring.
By stating relationship expectations and ways of working in this way we continually build a stronger relationship going forward.
How to do it
One thing that can hold us back from having difficult conversations is that we don’t know how to approach it and we are fearful of the possible reaction. There is no substitute for being honest, and it is best to address the difficulties as they occur. You can say something such as:
“I have just realised that I gave you some mis-information and because our relationship with you is important I want to put that right”, or
“As I think back to our negotiations last week I am concerned that I might have been too aggressive and I want to talk about it so that it doesn’t negatively impact our relationship”.
If you want to raise your game in building lasting customer relationships then think ‘pinch’ and ‘crunch’ each time you have a problem and use the opportunity to strengthen your relationship.
Have you had any customer experiences that you wish had gone differently? We would love to know, please comment below.