How to Resolve Conflict With Your Customer

Conflict is ever present, isn’t it? Every trade hopes that every job will go smoothly. That customers will be happily delighted, every time. And yet, every trade has a horror story or few where it all went horribly wrong. As well as those frequent occurrences of it just not going that well… 

Because I’m a business coach and I focus on setting up systems, I usually gravitate towards encouraging my customers to build the systems that prevent these situations (or at least make them much less frequent). 

And quite right, that’s my job. 

But that’s no help when you find yourself in one of these situations, is it? 

Well, there is a way to manage conflict and it goes like this:

  • Stop and Step back – calm the f*ck down 
  • Lose your emotional need to be right
  • Think about what outcome you want here (think bigger than the conflict issue)
  • Tell your customer what outcome you want (it needs to be good for both of you) 
  • Propose something fair that resolves the situation and puts you back on track for the outcome
  • Ask your customer to accept this proposal so you can both move on. 

I call this a reset and it’s very effective. 

I don’t mean back down or accept that they are right, though you should accept responsibility if they are. What I mean is that both parties should be reminded of the broader goal – a successful project. And why that’s important.

I mean a reset. We’re stuck in this dispute. We probably both feel like we’re in the right. We’re probably both feeling hard done by.

But we also both (or wanted at the start) to complete this project without problems, with a good outcome for both parties and with an intact relationship. 

So, you need to remind yourself and your customer of this and reset yourselves; so you’re emotionally back on track and so you can get the job back on track. 

It’s easy to stay stuck in a dispute, isn’t it? 

Once you’re not responding emotionally (and not being a d*ck –  face it, you both probably were), you can propose a fair solution that lets you both move forward. One where you both give some ground – that’s usually necessary.

Now this works when we have 2 reasonable parties who’ve fallen out or are in dispute because of misaligned expectations or miscommunication. 

Key words: Two reasonable parties. 

If one is not reasonable, it won’t help much. If the other party won’t budge or you won’t budge, it’s lawyers at 10 paces, isn’t it. 

I would avoid this, if at all possible. It doesn’t help your business, doesn’t move it forward. You might win but you won’t get more work or referrals out of this, will you? 

So that’s the last resort when all is lost – resolving the dispute, amicably, is your best option.

Do this sooner rather than later like wounds, disputes heal faster if left alone. 

A recent example:  

Craig, a builder and client of mine, won a lovely job – a waterfront renovation in a high profile position. He was thrilled, hoping to get a profile and a great reference, get drone footage and a testimonial for his website. Not to mention, some decent profit.

All went well for a while, happy architect, happy client, happy Craig. But then he called me – 3 disputes and the client was making very upset noises, demanding Craig to fix things up at his own cost. 

Craig didn’t want to – these problems, they weren’t his fault. He was building to the plans and the code but somewhere was a little ambiguity and the client and Craig saw things differently. 

(Now the builder could be any trade here and the client any type of client, couldn’t it? This is not a problem unique to residential builders). 

So Craig asked me to help him fix it and my solution was, well, what I just described: 

  • Stop, step back, calm the f**k down 
  • Remember the goal 
  • Reset and make a proposal 

He did exactly that: 

  •  Called a meeting specifically to resolve these issues (face to face) 
  •  Told the client of his desire for a good outcome for both of them
    • his to finish the job and be proud of it, to make profit and have a reference site
    • the client’s to get the beautiful house he wanted and not pay over his budget
  • Then got an agreement that this is what they both wanted (no sh*t) 
  •  Proposed a solution: ‘I’ll wear this if you wear that’ (with explanations but without finger pointing). 

He called me back. The situation is resolved: customer accepted, Customer is happy, they are friends again. And everything is back on track. 

Have you ever got bagged in a dispute? I bet you have. You’d be a tiny miracle if you hadn’t. Or a pushover. 

Are you ready to work with me? To grow your business. To put the right systems and structure in place to grow it properly and learn skills like this? 

Book a 10-minute call with me and we’ll see if we’re a fit. 

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4. Book yourself a 10-minute chat with me. We’ll talk about whether coaching is right for you now and if it is, we’ll go further into the process before you have to make your mind up.

See you later.

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