When the phone rang my stomach was in knots. The caller ID told me that on the other end of the line was a client who, quite simply, terrified me.
When they’d first started with me, because they felt I needed to prove myself to them, they’d demanded a completely different pricing structure to the one I’d had in place. And, desperately needing the work at the time, I’d said yes.
Now I was coming to regret that decision – it seemed every time they contacted me, they were challenging the way I did things and pushing me to do things differently. The situation was causing me to feel angry and frustrated. I remember thinking to myself that the main problem here was “they just don’t understand my business!”
How wrong I was.
I will insert a little caveat here to say that often, in situations like this, the client IS being incredibly unreasonable. And it’s usually an indicator that it’s time to part ways. This time round however, it was not the client not understanding me, it was me who had the problem.
Somewhere along the path of our rocky relationship I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat … and had an epiphany. Maybe I should be looking at their requests as suggestions rather than demands?
When I stepped back and, without emotion, reviewed what they were asking of me – a lot of those things actually made good sense. What they were suggesting was often a much better way of doing things!
They say the squeakiest wheel gets the oil. Well, I feel it can be the most demanding clients that help you grow your business. They are the renegades who show you:
- where your systems are failing,
- when your pricing is not market appropriate, and
- when your customer service isn’t up to scratch.
It’s a bit like being in the restaurant business. There may be many customers who clean their plates despite not really enjoying their meal, and you’d never know they were unhappy. They simply don’t return.
You have clients like this too – ones who are too busy plugging the holes in their business to show you where yours are. If they’re not happy with you they just stop sending through new jobs.
The ones who are noisy? It can be in your best interests to listen to them.
My own ‘squeaky wheel’ prompted me to change my communications systems, pricing structure and even my website! Listening to my customers has given me an edge I didn’t have before.
It’s hard in small business to take criticism – especially when you’re just starting out and you’re doing the best you can. But being resistant to that criticism might mean you’re missing out on great ideas to grow your business.
What’s the most important part of listening to criticism/negative feedback? The chance to tell your clients you’ve heard them and have made changes based on their suggestions. This will strengthen your relationships and as we all know, great relationships are the basis of all great businesses.
Have you ever been pushed to grow your business by a client?