At closerlook, we think a lot about relationships. We think about those that we have with our pharma clients, those that our clients have with their customers and especially those that we have with each other in the office and with our business partners. Healthy relationships are important for the business ecosystem. Therefore, it’s invaluable to know what to do when a relationship is not going well.
When there’s a “pinch” in a relationship, it can go one of two ways:
- It can lead to frustration, mistrust and ultimately the demise of the relationship.
- It can actually become an opportunity to redefine and strengthen the relationship.
Here are three strategies to use before, during, and after a pinch to increase the odds of a good outcome:
1) The Goodwill Bank
Relationships are never perfect. Even in the best relationships, things happen that will challenge that relationship.
Recognizing this, it’s very important to keep a strong balance of goodwill in the relationship bank. This will ensure that there are enough reserves so that when there is a pinch and a subsequent draw down of goodwill , you don’t go into overdraft mode.
It’s important to remember the impact of the “halo effect” in relationships. I used to joke with my grad school students about the period when American Airlines or US Airways never seemed to be on time, as opposed to Southwest, which was always on time. Southwest had built up enough goodwill in their bank so that when they were late due to mechanical or weather issues, their loyal passengers shrugged and gave them the benefit of the doubt. Whereas with US Airways or American Airlines, it was a whole different story. People always expected the worst and didn’t give them any credit even when they were on time!
Invest as much as you can up front in building a strong balance of goodwill in the relationship bank account with your friend, client or customer. It will give you a bit of latitude to recover from the inevitable pinch.
2) Be Proactive in Admitting Mistakes
Our experience has been that when the pinch does happen, it’s infinitely better when the person who caused the problem is the one who discloses the problem.
As an agency, if we make a mistake, very often we know about the mistake before the client does, and it’s key to the integrity of the relationship that we’re the ones who actually brings up the problem. We call the client to say, “We’ve got a problem here. We made a mistake. You need to be aware of it. This is what will happen and this is what we’re doing to fix it.”
When you’re proactive, the clients might not be happy, but you get credit for your integrity.
3) Over Deliver after a Pinch
If we’re speaking purely about business transactions, then the focus will always be, “How do I monetize in the short-term? How do I do this deal, get it done and make sure I get paid?” But if you’re thinking about building long-term relationships, then there is time to invest. And then when there’s the pinch, and it will happen, you have the opportunity to go way above and beyond to make up for it even if it means going into the hole a bit. If your perspective is long-term, your costs are actually a relationship investment.
Inevitably, even in the best client relationships, someone is going to screw up. These three simple steps have saved us and our clients from grief on several occasions.