Navigating Client Conflict & Resolution – Shamelessly Ambitious Episode 119

Filed in All Episodes, Business Strategy, Emotional Intelligence, Leadership Development — September 12, 2023

If you know me, you know that I deeply, deeply value ethical practices inside of businesses. I value the importance of humanizing your brand, your experience, and your business as a whole, from how you lead your team to how you serve your people, to how you lead yourself in life.

If you are not looking at things holistically — If you’re not looking at how your capacity outside of your office informs your capacity inside your office, then you’re missing something really important. And in all of this, there’s kind of this sticky conversation that needs to be brought to the surface, which is conflict resolution and the practices that we have inside of our business.

Conflict resolution in business can often feel like walking a tightrope suspended above the abyss. It’s a delicate balancing act between honoring your commitments, upholding the integrity of your contracts, and demonstrating compassion and understanding the very real human experiences of your clients.

NAVIGATING CLIENTS DESIRING TO BREAK THEIR CONTRACT

I had a client encounter a couple of weeks ago that brought this topic to my attention. A member of my beloved membership, The Empire Society, reached out questioning whether she could cancel her contract. Now, canceling contracts is a topic alone that’s marked by many polarizing beliefs. On one side, you have those who firmly believe that a contract is set in stone and unchangeable. They might even be inclined to respond unkindly if someone dares to request an alteration. On the other side, there are advocates of the “be a human” approach, promoting empathy and flexibility, often suggesting that contracts should be canceled without hesitation, letting go of anyone who isn’t aligned.

Hot take: I don’t fall somewhere in between. Instead, I believe that building an ethical business requires a nuanced approach. It involves treating every human like a human while also valuing the integrity of the contracts within your business.

I’ve had situations in my business where someone asked out of their contract because of a genuinely life-altering event. In such cases, I always put my “human-hat” on first and addressed it through a lens of empathy. But the reality is that 80 to 90% of the time, a contract is a contract is a contract. 🤷🏻‍♀️

THE IMPORTANCE OF CLIENT CONTRACTS

Let’s pause for a moment to say that contracts are the backbone of your business agreements. They set the terms and expectations for both parties involved. However, having a contract is only one part of the equation. Communication is what really keeps everything together. Most people won’t read a contract thoroughly, and honestly, it’s not your responsibility to make sure they read it word for word. Your role is to ensure that you communicate the boundaries, terms, and conditions of the contract in various ways. I like to do this by saying something like, “in the contract you agreed to, my hours of communication are…” This helps accommodate the diverse ways people process information, ensuring clarity and understanding. I personally include contract-related information in my onboarding processes, reiterating key points to honor individual learning styles.

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE APPROACHED?

I believe in putting myself in the shoes of my clients, anticipating worst-case scenarios, and being prepared to address them with empathy and integrity.

Imagine a scenario where a client approaches you with a request to break their contract due to a significant, unforeseen life event, such as a sudden loss or a tragic incident like their house burning down. In such moments, honoring their need for contract changes isn’t just a matter of good business; it’s a matter of basic human decency. At these times, we must remember our commitment to not being assholes and instead respond with empathy and flexibility. If you didn’t get the memo that being an asshole isn’t cool, catch the vibe in this episode. However, this is where the balancing act comes into play. You must hold the line on the integrity of your contracts. You can’t waver every time someone requests a change. This is why implementing effective conflict resolution practices in your business is crucial. Not only should you know how to handle these situations, but you should also teach your team to do the same.

If your client does experience a significant life event, one hot tip I like to use is to modify their current contract rather than break it entirely. This shows human compassion, but also that I value my business standards that we both agreed to.

HERE’S HOW I RESOLVE CLIENT CONFLICT RE: CONTRACTS

A few weeks ago, when a dear client of mine who is a member inside the Empire Society reached out, she expressed that it no longer felt aligned with her current needs. I was faced with a super uncomfy dilemma. Her message essentially described a desire to cancel her membership, citing a shift in her coaching requirements and a newfound focus on self-trust. As someone who genuinely encourages and celebrates self-trust and personal growth, I resonated with her journey. However, I also knew that things weren’t that simple.

My immediate reaction was a mixture of discomfort and hesitation. I didn’t want to be in this situation. Afterall, I’m a human too and it’s natural to feel that initial gut-check response when confronted with a potentially challenging situation. That being said, I’ve learned that responding impulsively in any situation could lead to reactions that are defensive or even counterproductive.

So, I did something I’ve learned to value immensely — I paused. Taking a minimum of 24 hours before responding to such situations is a practice I invite every business owner to adopt.

Pausing allows you to regain composure, approach the issue with a clear mind, and avoid reacting in a way you might regret. So, I hit the snooze button on that email, giving myself the time I needed to think through and come back with clarity on what I wanted to say.

When I returned to the situation, I was armed with a powerful conflict resolution strategy — the “compliment sandwich.” This method has become one of my go-to tools for navigating tricky conversations, whether with clients, team members, or even my husband LOL. It’s a structured way to honor someone’s experience, address the issue at hand, and then wrap up with more validation and empathy.

In this particular case, I began with genuine compliments, expressing how much I valued her and her presence. Even though we were discussing a challenging topic, I wanted her to know that she was seen and appreciated. Then, I delivered the facts. I detailed the remaining payments on her contract, the value of what she had already accessed, and the special discount she had received from being a client of mine before entering the Empire Society. It was crucial for me to keep this section free from emotion, presenting only the facts of our agreement. The final part of the sandwich was a big serving of care and support. I reiterated my love for her and my excitement for her journey towards self-trust. I also provided suggestions on how she could still benefit from her membership until the end of the contract term, explaining that I was here to support her so she could get the most out of her experience. 

BEING A BUSINESS OWNER ISN’T ALWAYS EASY

This interaction served as a reminder that being a business owner isn’t always a walk in the park. && If it was, more people would be out here doing the dang thing! There are aspects of entrepreneurship that can feel uncomfortable and challenging, but as a business owner, you’ve taken on the responsibility to serve others, to build an impact, and to do so with integrity.

It’s sooo important that we approach conflict resolution with the same level of care and consideration as we do any other aspect of our business. There are human beings on the other side of these contracts, and that’s something we should never forget. Every interaction, even those that create little bouts of conflict, should be humanized. 

I share this experience with you to emphasize that I’m still human, too. I felt that initial discomfort and icky feelings when I received her email, but having processes in place, believing in the importance of conflict resolution, and pausing to respond thoughtfully helped me navigate this situation with poise. Remember, my friend, as you navigate conflict resolution in your business, hold your contracts with care and treat your clients with compassion.

You’ve got this, my love.

JOIN ME INSIDE EMPIRE SOCIETY 💋

&& If YOU want to join the membership I talked about in this episode, consider this my formal invitation to you. It’s a community of belonging, inclusion, & one-ness with badass CEO women. You get immediate access to 12 passive programs, a private broadcast called Empire Musings, and bi-monthly coffee chats. PLUS you even get some bonuses. 😉

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I am the definition of duality—I swear like a sailor and break rules like it’s my job, but I also hold incredible space for my clients and work my ass off to help them achieve the success they’re after (but faster).

My background in counseling and my experience founding three multi-6-figure businesses gives me a unique perspective on what it means to show up and serve as an ethical and successful CEO. Leaning on my experiences, along with the experiences of the hundreds of women I’ve been honored to work with, I offer founders a psych-backed and human-first approach to scaling their legacies—both in and out of the office. 

I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to anything, but especially business. Because at the foundation of any profitable, sustainable, ethically sound business is one thing: humans being humans. And to do anything without first considering the human behind the action (i.e., with intention and vulnerability) is to remove our most powerful predictor of success—ourselves.

Around here, you’ll find a personalized and multidimensional client experience paired with a few tastefully dropped fucks. You’ll also find a new way of being in business that’s sustainable, ethical, and built around your life (not the other way around).

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