How to Prepare for Difficult Conversations with Customers

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External communications can be tricky. There are a lot of moving parts and you’re not always on top of everything that’s going on with your client. Sometimes that means having a tough conversation or two to get you and your client back on the same page.

Before reporting anxiety, remember that external communication is a skill you can learn and master with practice and an understanding of yourself and your client’s goals. In a customer-focused role, we can all hone our skills to make those difficult conversations a little less stressful. While these types of conversations are never fun, they can be necessary. If done well, they can provide both parties with opportunities for growth.

Here’s how you can make difficult conversations a little easier and more successful in the future.

Build trust early on and maintain it

People working in high trust workplaces have been shown to have 74% less stress than people working in low trust workplaces. Building trust is just as important externally as it is internally to reduce stress for you and your customers.

Trust with new clients does not come overnight. But if you make it clear from the start that you’re working toward the same goals, your customers can start building that trust early on, paving the way for more productive conversations in the future.

To do this, you must be extremely transparent with your client about your work. Don’t just tell new customers what you do, but also take the time to explain why you do it and how it contributes to their goals.

Another way to establish this trust from the start is through honesty. You won’t always get the right answer, but if you honestly say you don’t know or need time to work through a question, your client will see that you’re thinking about your work together.

Once you have established the foundation of trust, you must continually build it, demonstrating to your customer that they are a priority and that you continue to work towards a common goal.

Related: The Top 5 Reasons Entrepreneurship Is Difficult (And How To Overcome Them)

Create a culture of open communication

Difficult conversations are much easier when open communication is the norm from the start. There will always be a need for uncomfortable conversations at work, especially when working with clients who don’t fully understand what you do and why you do it. But, keeping an open line of communication makes customers feel more comfortable voicing their opinions and makes the partnership more productive overall.

Creating regular visits with clients to reassess goals and discuss what works (and what doesn’t) is necessary for partnerships to grow. This is all the more necessary as the way we work has changed in recent years, with fewer face-to-face meetings and more conversations behind computer screens.

Technical obstacles can make these situations even more challenging, so regular conversations and goal setting will help ensure you’re aligned. That way, when an uncomfortable conversation is needed, you have an established relationship and a way to communicate to make it as productive as possible.

Related: 7 Ways to Learn Difficult Conversations

Mistakes happen (but you have to learn from them)

When you’re new to customer communications, there can be a constant fear of messing things up. Although it becomes easier for more experienced employees, this fear may never completely go away. That’s why you need to understand from the start that you can make a mistake. Sometimes you can over-promise a client or make a call that, in hindsight, wasn’t the best option.

It happens to all of us, even the best client communicators. But, if you’ve established a solid foundation with your client and created an environment of trust and transparency, you’ll be fine. The key is to admit that you’re not quite right as soon as you realize it, and to find a solution to correct the situation in order to put your client back on the right track towards their goals.

Once your client is back on track and the issues have been resolved, it’s time to do some personal thinking. In your free time, take a moment to review what happened and learn from your mistakes. Discuss with managers and team members what went wrong and how you could have handled the situation better. That way, when you’re faced with a challenge like this again (and you probably will be), you’ll be in a better position to make the right decision.

There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to communicating with customers, but building positive relationships and creating open communication is the best way to ensure that when those tough conversations need to happen, you’re ready to move forward with confidence. .

Related: How to Handle Difficult People (and Still Hit Your Business Goals)

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