Look at conflicts as opportunities
On occasion consultants will shy away from conflicts with their client groups: clients, temps and candidates. While we all wish for happy uncomplicated interactions w. our clients, occasionally things will go wrong, particularly when you are dealing with people. Sometimes your temp may not do the job the client expected, you might leave your temp off the payroll or your candidate might be waiting for a letter of offer from you that never arrives.
Whatever the conflict is, there are a myriad of reasons why you should negotiate your way to a 'win – win' solution for all parties:
- If you really value the relationship w. that person/company, you will do whatever it takes to repair the damage. They will appreciate the effort and understand that you view them as a valuable connection and not as a disposable client/temp/candidate.
- It's ten times easier to repair a fractured relationship than converting a new client.
- Word of mouth travels particularly fast when it is a negative appraisal of your services. It can seriously damage your personal and company brand.
- Anyone can supply a service when things are going smoothly. It is when things get tough, that the true measure of your problem solving ability is on display. Show them how professional you really are.
The best way of solving a conflict is not via email or even by phone, but whenever possible should be done face-to-face. Whilst it may be uncomfortable and confronting; clients, temps and candidates can see your sincerity in wanting to “fix it”.
When you are in front of the person with the grievance, do not try to put your point across to the other party or worse defend your position, but let them speak, no matter how angry or inaccurate you may feel, they are. Give them time to tell you their version and what they want you to do about the situation. Often that in itself is enough to diffuse a potentially explosive situation. Once they have finished speaking and you have understood how and why they feel/think the way they do, then and only then do you tell them the version you have.
You may find that what you thought happened, actually transpired in a different way. Consultants are the intermediaries between candidates/temps and clients, so the version you have may not be entirely accurate. Remember your role is not to establish blame, but instead to assure all parties of your genuine desire to “fix it” and then to reach an outcome acceptable to all. This may mean if your temp was not up to standard that you give the client the next temp at four hours free for lost time or if you missed paying the temp this week that you give them a Gold Class pass for their inconvenience. These gestures do not mean that you were wrong but are gestures of wanting to make a deposit in the emotional bank account of the relationship.
If the grievance is severe then both the consultant and their manager needs to be in front of the client/temp/candidate. It is infinitely more challenging for the manager, than telling a client, that the consultant made a mistake and they will be pulled off the account, which shows lack of solidarity with the consultant, but also that the manager is not willing to admit that the service 'buck' stops with them, but the rewards are also much greater.
Take the opportunity today to review your client files w. relationships that went off the rails because you dodged a conflict situation and call them to sort it out and you may just cement some relationships and gain some business!