Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about clinging to the “good old days” when thank you notes were sent on stationery and not via e-mail, and people used their mouths to have every day conversations instead of their fingers. I e-mail and text with the best of them.
But certain things are best done the “old fashioned” way.
My client Eric, a successful financial advisor, wrote me this letter in an email:
Ouch! My client is telling me that he needs to liquidate his accounts because he is having financial issues, and I can believe that. But another interpretation is that I have not been supplying enough value to him lately, and he might be taking his money somewhere else. I intend to email him and ask him which was the actual reason–financial problems or value. If it’s financial problems, then that’s fine (unless I can help him in some way to find an alternative to liquidation). However, if it’s value, then I would like to invite him to sit down with me again to see if I can start being more productive for him.
Eric asked me to let him know if I had any coaching for him before he drafted his email. To be consistent with the advice I was about to give, I asked Eric to get on a Zoom call with me, rather than responding by email. When we talked, I started the conversation by acknowledging the problem he was trying to solve:
You’re right, it’s painful to lose a client. It could honestly be a financial issue–and not necessarily one that you should have foreseen, although I wonder if you had been paying more attention to this client, you would have seen this issue coming.
But even if you were talking with him every day, he might not have disclosed the issue he was having.
On the other hand, as you suspect, he could simply be dissatisfied with the level of attention you’re giving him and his accounts.
Then I went on to talk about his desire to e-mail his client to ask about the actual reason:
E-mail is a wimpy approach in this situation. If you can, connect with him on the phone and talk. You’re used to using the phone for most of your communications. In this case, you’re uncomfortable, so you’re proposing to hide behind an email.
If he takes your call, you may be able to find a way for him to solve the problem without liquidating. If it IS a service issue as you suspect, talking with him might help you solve it. Either way, you may be able to avoid this being a total loss.
There is a heirarchy of effective personal communications which usually translates: The more difficult way is the better way. Don’t e-mail if a phone call or a snail mail letter would be more effective. Don’t type a letter if a hand-written note would be more effective. And don’t call if a face-to-face meeting would be more effective. The extra effort is usually worth your while.
If the client didn’t take Eric’s call, he would have had the option of letting him go or of moving to an email. But the call needed to come first. As it was, Eric did speak to the client who had been hiding the fact that he was being sued and now had a judgment against him he wanted to clear. Eric was able to do a partial liquidation and is continuing to work with that cleitn.
Even when you’re concerned that a client might not have something nice to say about you, communicate powerfully. Don’t be wimpy. Contact me and let me help you make your client communications stronger, and keep REACHING…