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How to Handle an Angry Client

Too many attorneys, when faced with clients who range from dissatisfied to down right angry, choose the loser's path by postponing handling the situation. This results in one of two things happening. Either the angry client decides the problem isn't worth the aggravation and cools down (what every attorney wishes would happen, but like many wishes, just thinking it won't make it so). Or the client gets so angry that the next time you hear from him or her is through the higher-ups in your company who have absorbed some of the client's anger and are happy to give it to you.

Because I understood that building relationships is what is most important in any business, I began early in my career to send thank you notes to people. I set a goal to send ten thank you notes every day. That goal meant that I had to meet and get the names of at least ten people every day. I sent thank you notes to people I met briefly, people I showed properties to, people I talked with on the telephone, and people I actually helped to own new homes. I became a thank you note fool. And guess what happened? By the end of my third year in sales, my business was 100% referrals! The people I had expressed gratitude to were happy to send me new clients as a reward for making them feel appreciated and important. If you are a small law firm or sole practitioner, you may learn more about your client's anger through legal channels. Naturally, no one wants to walk into a lion's den and face the angry client. However, you must consider the value of this client to you, your reputation, and the law firm. In most cases, I would guess that it will be worth your while to face that angry client and get the situation resolved as quickly as possible. I'd like to give you nine steps I've developed for facing and dispelling another person's anger.

1. Acknowledge the other person's anger quickly.
Nothing adds more fuel to a fire than having his or her anger ignored or belittled. The faster you verbally recognize their anger, the better.

2. Make it plain that you're concerned.
Tell them you realize just how angry they are. Let them know that you are taking the situation seriously. Make notes of every possible detail they give you.

3. Don't hurry them.
Be patient. Let them get it all out. Never try to interrupt or shut them up. In many cases, the best move is to simply listen. They'll wind themselves down eventually. In some cases, they'll realize they blew the situation out of proportion and feel foolish for it. They are then likely to accept nearly any solution you offer.

4. Keep calm.
Most angry people say things they don't really mean. Learn to let those things pass and take them up after you've solved the present challenge - only if you feel it's necessary to do so.

5. Ask questions.
Your aim is to discover the specific things that you can do to correct the problem. Try to get specific information about the difficulties the problem has caused, rather than a general venting of hot air.

6. Get them talking about solutions.
This is where you will learn just how reasonable this client is. By the time you get to this step, their anger should have cooled enough to discuss the challenge rationally. If it hasn't tell them you want to schedule a later meeting, even if it's in an hour, to come up with some reasonable solutions. Let them do the rest of their fuming on their time.

7. Agree on a solution.
After you know exactly what the challenge is, you're in a position to look for some kind of action that will relieve the challenge. Propose something specific. Start with whatever will bring them the best and quickest relief. Don't get into a controversy over pennies at this time.

8. Agree on a schedule.
Once you've agreed on a solution, set up a schedule for its accomplishment. Agree to a realistic time frame that you know you can handle. The biggest mistake you can make is to agree to something that cannot be done. If you do, you'd better be ready to face another bout of this person's anger when you don't come through.

9. Meet your schedule. Give this schedule top priority. You've talked yourself into a second chance with this client, so make sure you don't blow it.

Tom Hopkins

Tom Hopkins is world-renowned as America’s #1 sales trainer. For over 30 years, he has helped millions of professionals around the world serve more people through proven-effective skills. His books have sold in the millions, and hundreds of thousands of people benefit from his recorded audio and video programs every day. For more information, contact Tom Hopkins International by calling (800) 528-0446 or visit his website at www.tomhopkins.com

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About the Author: Tom Hopkins is world-renowned as America’s #1 sales trainer. For over 30 years, he has helped millions of professionals around the world serve more people through proven-effective skills. His books have sold in the millions, and hundreds of thousands of people benefit from his recorded audio and video programs every day. For more information, contact Tom Hopkins International by calling (800) 528-0446 or visit his website at www.tomhopkins.com

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