You have a service that helps people. You’re an expert in this particular area and you know that you can bring solutions that have amazing impact. Only problem is, the people you’re trying to help are often challening to work with. Sound familiar?
You probably had no idea that such a huge part of your skill set was going to involve emotional intelligence. Yet time and time again, I observe that what makes or breaks your business success is your ability to skillfully work with your client’s emotions – before, during, and after the “work” is done.
People who embrace this part of their job and learn to navigate the emotional landscape get traction on their ideas. People who resist stepping in emotionally – who get habitually triggered or focus their energy on avoidance or resentment of rising emotions – find themselves frustrated and blocked.
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review called “When the Customer is Stressed” provides a great synopsis of why certain types of services can elicit intense feelings from clients. Have you noticed how some of these triggers create stress in your clients?
- They’re not familiar with the service being delivered. You’ve done this a thousand times, but it’s new to the client, and the choices seem overwhelming.
- They feel out of control over the performance of the service. They can’t micromanage you to make sure the work is done correctly (although some of them try!!).
- There are major consequences if things go wrong. Whether your client is spending their savings on a major home renovation, or is a corporate employee under pressure to demonstrate ROI on every investment, the financial, relationship, and career implications of many high-ticket services are unnerving.
- The complexity of the service makes it seem like a black box that gives you the upper hand. Your client is paying you because you have a specific technical expertise, and yet feels out of control because there is no way to objectively evaluate your services before or during the work.
- The length of the job is long, with a series of events to be carried out. If your work is executed in a phased way, there are many opportunities for conflict and misunderstanding.
What’s a service provider to do?
In a nutshell: Be proactive. With yourself and others.
Being proactive with your clients means:
- Understanding the triggers that are specific to your business and anticipating how and when they will show up in your clients. Don’t wait for your clients to get stressed. Provide them with an overall roadmap of the process (but not too much detail at once…).
- Confidently reassuring your clients from your experience that whatever they’re feeling is typical for this point in the process, and helping them to work through it.
- Staying in contact with your clients on a regular basis and giving them opportunities to voice whatever is beginning to brew in their minds before it turns into a tornado. Learn to read the signs that there is something that needs to be addressed.
Being proactive with yourself means:
- Knowing what client situations cause you anxiety and stress.
- Having strategies in place to work with yourself before you step into a meeting with the client.
Relationships are so important to any service business — I look forward to exploring these topics with you in the weeks to come!