Nobody enjoys being confronted by angry clients, but avoiding them “is absolutely the worst thing you can do,” particularly if you're in their home nearly every day, says Beverly Koehn, a consultant to remodelers and builders. “The minute you start avoiding them, you dig yourself into a deeper hole.”
Rather than hoping the problem will go away, show you care about their concerns, Koehn says. Her shorthand strategy is called LAUGH:
Listen: “Let them vent,” Koehn says. Turn off your cell phone, take notes, and offer your undivided attention. Never interrupt or object.
Acknowledge: Make eye contact. Nod your head, soften your stance, and otherwise use positive body language.
Understand: “Don't allow your own emotions to control the situation,” Koehn says, particularly if the two of you have clashed before. Try to see things from their point of view.
Five suggestions/options: Apologize for the inconvenience, and ask how they'd recommend moving forward. Never make demands or use the excuse of company policy.
Humanize the situation: “Remember, we're all human beings,” Koehn says. “Tell yourself that this is one of the nicest people you've ever met, and you're dedicated to responding to their concerns.”
If the client remains angry and becomes abusive, don't engage them by saying nobody talks to you that way. Instead, Koehn says, make a softening statement and define your parameters: you want to work this out, but you won't participate in that kind of language. Suggest a five-minute break, and exit professionally. They'll probably return ashamed and cooperative.
These strategies work for all field staff, including laborers and others in day-to-day contact with homeowners. Pass them on.
Beverly Koehn can be reached at Beverly@bkoehn.com.