How to Deal With Unsatisfied Clients [Tips for Lead Gen Agencies]

5 mins

Even the best agencies run into upset clients sometimes. It’s inevitable, but how you handle them can make a big difference. The good news is that you can even strengthen relationships with your frustrated clients if you approach them right.

Within the past seven years, we at Belkins figured out an effective policy to keep the churn rate under 11%. So today, as Expandi’s partner, we’ll walk you through some essential tactics for dealing with dissatisfied clients.

But before we proceed, let’s agree upon one crucial thing: Say NO to scripts and canned messages. Each situation is unique, so treat them differently. The only script you can follow is a set of questions to understand why the client is unhappy.

And now let’s go straight to the first step.

#1. Start with de-escalation

Let’s face it, an angry client can be intimidating. But before you hit the panic button, here are three basic ways to stay calm and professional even under fire of accusations:

  • Take a deep breath. Deep breathing has clinically proven its effectiveness in reducing stress. It delivers more oxygen to your brain, helping you think clearly, and signals your body to turn on the “relaxed” mode.
  • Speak quietly. Even if the client raises their voice, talk to them calmly and slowly. A measured tone helps set a more peaceful pace for the conversation.
  • Mind your body language. Keep a straight posture and eye contact (but don’t make it a stare-down), don’t cross your arms, and don’t fidget. This demonstrates you’re confident and engaged in conversation.

After taking care of yourself, try to lower the degree of the client’s emotions. Check out these communication techniques:

What to do Why do this Examples
Acknowledge the client’s feelings To validate their frustration. This way, you’ll show empathy, which opens the door for a productive conversation. “I understand you’re upset.”

“It sounds like you’re disappointed.”

Summarize key points Demonstrates understanding and encourages further explanation. “So, what you’re saying is that the deadline wasn’t met, and the lead list strayed from the ICP?”
Paraphrase and reflect Ensures you’ve grasped what they mean and allows for clarification. “It sounds like you’re feeling frustrated with the lack of communication throughout the project.”
Use verbal and non-verbal encouragers Shows you’re engaged and invites them to elaborate. Nod, use short phrases like “Okay,” “Uh-huh,” or “I see.”
Ask open-ended questions This helps you get to the root of the issue. “Can you tell me more about what specifically you’re unhappy with?”
Practice a problem-first approach To encourage collaboration and shared responsibility, shift the focus from blaming to problem-solving. “Let’s see how we can fix this.”

“We’ll find a solution that works for both of us.”

Document your communication Write down what you discuss, the decisions you make, and action items. This helps ensure clarity and serves as a reference for future communication.

You can follow the simple template on the right.

Things in question:

  • Poor delivery
  • Broken deadline

To-do:

  • Item #1 [due date], [responsible]
  • Item #2 [due date], [responsible]
Avoid interrupting or making assumptions Wait for them to finish their point before speaking. Thanks to that, you’ll allow them to express their concerns fully and show you care about what they say.

In other words, just like in B2B lead generation, it’s all about active listening and openness to dialogue. What’s more, it’s about focusing on the problem rather than on someone’s fault.

Note: If you’re struggling with generating quality leads from LinkedIn, book a free consultation with our experts to discuss your winning strategy.

#2. Try to understand the client’s concerns

After you’ve de-escalated the situation and established a calmer environment, move to root-cause analysis. Basically, this stage boils down to three steps:

  1. Identify the reason(s) why the client is frustrated. If you’ve practiced active listening at the de-escalation stage, you might already have a high-level picture of what bothers your client. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, just don’t be afraid to ask.
  2. Categorize those reasons. They can include the following (we added questions here to help you define and group them):
    1. Missed deadlines or deliverables. Why is the project behind the schedule? Was the project scope clear? Did you have enough resources at each stage?
    2. Miscommunication. Have you regularly synced? Did something get lost in translation?
    3. Unmet expectations. Were project goals clearly defined? Haven’t you overpromised the results?
    4. Poor performance or low KPIs. Are there issues with the quality of the work produced? Why can’t you meet your initial goals?
  3. Prioritize the reasons. If there are several of them, pick the most critical ones and gather as many details about them as possible.

Note: There’s also a chance the problem isn’t on the agency side. For example, one of Belkins’ services covers the pre-sales stage and delivers appointments with qualified leads. The clients handle those calls themselves and sometimes may lack the resources or even experience to do that. In such case, we can offer sales enablement as an extension to the base service.

#3. Map the way out

Now that you’ve identified the source of the client’s frustration, it’s time to come up with a solution. Here are several strategies that help you navigate this stage:

  • Brainstorm possible solutions together with the client. Whenever possible, involve the client in brainstorming solutions. This fosters a sense of ownership and increases their buy-in. Ask them open-ended questions like, “What would a successful resolution look like for you?” or “How can we get back on track?”
  • Clearly communicate what’s next. Once you agree upon a solution, outline the detailed action plan. Who will do what? By when? Create a timeline with realistic deadlines to keep everyone accountable.
  • Set realistic expectations. Don’t overpromise to look better. Be honest and transparent about what you can achieve. If you’re not sure about estimates, mention it. Then go discuss it with your team and come back to the client with adjustments.
  • Offer alternative solutions, if needed. Sometimes the initial solution might not be feasible, so have alternative options ready to discuss. This demonstrates flexibility and your commitment to finding a resolution.
  • Start working on the plan immediately. However hard it may be, don’t delay execution. This shows the client you’re taking their concerns seriously and are committed to resolving the issue.

Note: Communication is crucial throughout this process. Regularly update the client on progress and address any concerns that arise.

Extra tips to rebuild relationships

While resolving the immediate issue is crucial, rebuilding trust and preventing similar situations are equally important. We’ve gathered some additional tips for you:

  • Always own your mistakes and apologize sincerely. Don’t try to blame someone or something.
  • Keep the communication timely and on-point. Yes, the communication again. Because in 95% of cases, you could prevent the problem by scheduling weekly syncs and providing regular updates.
  • Follow through on the promises. Actions speak louder than words. Ensure you deliver on the promises made in the solution plan.
  • Escalate if the things are beyond your control. If the situation becomes too complex or the client’s behavior is out of line, engage your supervisor or manager.
  • Define steps to prevent similar issues in the future proactively. Hold an internal retrospective to identify areas for improvement and avoid such situations.

We hope these tips will help you save relationships with your clients and keep them happy even when something goes wrong. 

About the Autor

Michael Maximoff

Michael Maximoff is a Co-founder and Managing Partner at Belkins — an appointment setting agency ranked #1 by Clutch, G2, and UpCity 5 years in a row. With over a decade in B2B sales and marketing, Michael is passionate about building teams and driving impactful growth. He is the author of the ‘From Zero to Agency Hero’ newsletter and the host of Belkins Growth Podcast, sharing insights on building service companies and scaling businesses.

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