Delivering bad news, difficult updates or even a contrary opinion can be hard for anyone. It is a particular challenge for those of us on the agency side. There is an innate desire to tell the client what they want to hear, or what will make them happy – the pleasing personality.
This falls into a fool’s choice situation where the options are either “yes” the client to death or tell them nothing and hope the issue goes away. There is a different option, though. You can deliver extraordinarily bad news and still be pleasant. The challenge to overcome is to detach from the issue, and allow it to be a third party in the conversation. Once you have detached, you can talk about even the most unpleasant topic in a pleasing way.
The experience should be pleasant, even when the topic is not. Avoiding the issue simply makes it worse and exacerbates a poorly developed relationship. Think brussel sprouts… Bitter, hard little bundles of lost childhood. But, they’re good for you… So roast them, put some nice seasoning and maybe even a sprinkling of bacon. Voila! Not so terrible anymore.
This is the magic trick that seasoned relationship managers have mastered. Pleasing the client is not always in their best interest, but being pleasant is in all of our best interests.
It’s a fine point, but an important one to remember through out the client experience.
Eric Berrios is responsible for client strategy and client relationship at Realm in Atlanta, GA. Since 2005, he has been driving business-to-business clients towards setting and achieving their goals and gaining a stronger sense of brand purpose.