Designers Advised on Blunting Anger of Clients When Mistakes Occur

Designers Advised on Blunting Anger of Clients When Mistakes Occur

How often have you heard the phrase, "It's nothing personal?"

However, when dealing with the kitchen and bathroom two critical parts of a client's home even minor problems are often taken quite personally. It's easy, for example, for the slightest mistake on the part of a designer, dealer, cabinet shop or installer to generate anger, insults, shouting, threats and more. 

Naturally, since kitchen and bath specialists rely on clients for referrals, it's best to stay on a friendly basis. What follows are some handy tips to help defuse client anger and solve client-related problems successfully:

  • Do not meet anger with anger. Anger only builds when it's met with anger. It dissipates when it has nothing to smash against. Remember, it's only business. Your aggrieved clients are angry because it's personal to them. They'll no doubt want to express that anger. Let them vent. The sooner you can get them to think about it rationally, and not emotionally, the quicker you'll arrive at a solution.
  • Agree with the client on any point, no matter how trivial. Even if it's to say, "I understand how you feel Mrs. Witherbottom. I'd feel the same way if I thought such a thing had happened in my kitchen," agreement defuses the anger. Part of the emotional weight of the moment is the client's need to show that his or her reaction is justified. Agreement on your point provides this justification and can do a lot to calm the situation and turn it to a rational conclusion.
  • Write down the problem. Tell your angry client, "Let me get this in writing," and write down what the person has to say. This demonstrates to the angry client that you're taking the problem very seriously. Second, it slows down the situation considerably. Your client will calm down and speak slower, to be sure that you are writing things down correctly. Ever try to be angry slower? It can't be done.
    A third benefit to writing down the problem is that it forces clients to reassess the problem more logically. Instead of just complaining vaguely about the cabinet finish, or the appliances, or the installation job, they'll want to tell you specifically what they don't like. In doing so, the problem will usually become clearer, and a solution will present itself.
  • Recap the problem aloud and make sure there are no hidden problems. This demonstrates that you've understood fully what the problem is and are acting in good faith. You're not trying to minimize or dismiss your client's concerns. This also avoids misunderstandings later. 
  • Take responsibility. This is especially important for your employees. Nothing is more infuriating than telling someone about a problem and having them reply "That's not my job," or "You'll have to talk to the boss." Encourage employees to take responsibility and empower them to solve simple problems on site. Even if they cannot answer the question or make the adjustment, they must say something like "I will personally make sure this gets done," or the client's anger will build up again.
  • Negotiate a solution. Don't just dictate what you will or won't do. Say frankly, "What do you think would be a fair solution to the problem?" Stay focused on specific aspects of the client's problem, and never lose sight of common ground. You both have as your goal a room that your client will be happy with, and you need to make it clear you're making a good-faith effort to get there together.