Five Things Clients Won’t Tell You

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Imagine this: You sent new clients on vacation and they said they had a great time. You e-mailed them when they got home to check in and they replied that everything went just fine. You replied to please let you know when you can help them again and to please refer you to their friends. They responded with an “OK!” and even a happy face emoji. You move on to other tasks.

Ruthanne Terrero
Ruthanne Terrero, CTC, Vice President–Content/Editorial Director

This relationship is in trouble. Except for the happy face, no joyous emotions were expressed. Words like “good,” “fine” and “great” are what a teenager might use when you quiz them about their first day of high school and they don’t want to say that they don’t like where their locker is and they’re sure they’re going to fail algebra because they have no clue what all those numbers on the blackboard were all about. You know something is wrong because you see the sullen look on their face and how they’re slouched down at the dinner table.

You didn’t get similar signals from your client because you weren’t present when you asked about their trip. They didn’t want to get into how they didn’t get the room they had expected and had to spend the first hour of their trip in the lobby arguing that they’d paid for an oceanfront room. Truth was, you booked them into an ocean-view room, but didn’t explain that it didn’t give them a water view front and center.

They were also surprised that the entrance to their room was in an outdoor corridor, which to them wasn’t very fancy. They had envisioned luxurious air-conditioned hallways. You had told them they were getting free breakfast every day, but when they sat down the first morning they were pointed to a modest buffet with muffins and boxed cereal that was reserved for free-breakfast guests. At checkout, they were dismayed that they’d been charged a daily $50 resort fee for the use of towels by the pool and the coffee maker in the room.

Those are four issues that came up during the trip that they didn’t tell you about. The fifth thing is that they’re not going to use you again because they don’t see what the benefit would be. They had much higher expectations because you’d done a great job of describing your services to them.

Nothing that happened to these clients was really your fault. In real life, you don’t always get what you expect. However, you could have managed their expectations by telling them that the vibe of their hotel was relaxed, not traditional five-star and that ocean view meant they’d have to look over treetops to see the water and that their plan included continental and not a full breakfast.

When people know what to expect they’re not vulnerable to bad surprises; in fact, they like being armed with knowledge because they feel as if they’re in control of a situation.

Lastly, a telephone call as they were checking in to the hotel would have helped to resolve the room confusion and maybe you could have pulled a few strings to get them a better view. Another call once they got home would have let you hear the lack of enthusiasm in their voices and you might have had the chance to recover their business — or at least learned a few lessons for the next time around.