How to handle difficult conversations

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As the first point of contact, advisers face the challenge of keeping clients happy while often having difficult conversations. Conversation experts Hugh Gyton and Tracey Ward explain how you can keep all your relationships positive.

When you are confronted with a difficult situation, or you suspect one might be about to occur, the first step is to confront it, according to Gyton and Ward. The best way to do this is face to face, but failing that a phone conversation will do – even if the other party began the conversation via email.

“We quite like hiding behind email, it feels safer and easier, but if we’re not careful all we’re doing is contributing to their frustration,” says Gyton.

Even if you do everything right, it’s possible you will still get objections or emotionally-charged clients. In this case, Ward and Gyton suggest following the process of CURE: Cushion, Understand, Respond, Engage.

Cushion:

The first step is to get the other person into a mind-set where they can communicate calmly and be open to your response, says Ward.

“Cushion the emotion for them and allow them to feel legitimate in their feeling. The worst thing you can do is to get cross with them… you need to acknowledge they have a right to feel how they’re feeling. Say ‘I can absolutely appreciate’ or ‘I can understand why you must be feeling like that'.”

Understand:

This is the step that’s often skipped, says Ward, as people tend to assume they know what the other person is upset about without really trying to understand the underlying issues.

“The words that they’re saying might not be what it’s really all about, there might be some other pressure on them we’re not aware of,” says Gyton.

Take the time to find out what the problem really is, and you’ll be able to reassure them in a more productive way.

Respond:

This is where you can work towards resolving the issue – ideally face to face – only after the first two steps have been completed.

Engage:

This is a verification that you have truly addressed all of their concerns, says Gyton. Ask the other party if they’ve been reassured, if they feel comfortable and if there is anything else that you can do for them.

By following this process, advisers can maintain positive relationships with clients, BDMs, product reps and any other professional contacts, while still getting the results they want, say Ward and Gyton.

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