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When Things Go Wrong, These Emails Will Make a Client Like You More


HBO and millions of fans are pining for George R.R. Martin to finish “The Winds of Winter,” the latest installment of his bestselling book (and now TV show) Game of Thrones.

Here’s the problem: Martin isn’t done yet.

Rather than keep people in the dark, the author posted an explanation on January 2 via his LiveJournal page and told the honest truth.

“THE WINDS OF WINTER is not finished. Believe me, it gave me no pleasure to type those words. You’re disappointed, and you’re not alone…”

Are fans bummed out? Definitely. But because Martin communicated in an open, transparent way, people seemed to understand. From the comment section of the LiveJournal page:

game of thrones

Yes, there are some deadlines you can’t miss and, if you do, it could harm the business relationship.

By and large, clients (and adoring fans) understand if things don’t go according to plan. What really makes them upset is if you go quiet and fail to explain what’s going on.

Always Up to Date

My approach with client relations is to never let too much time pass without “checking in.” Even if I don’t have the greatest update in the world, it’s still better than silence.

Here are the three “status update” situations I rely on.

1. Right after a client request even if I don’t have the information

Here’s what the email looks like:

“Thanks. I got your email. I will get to work on [task at hand] and keep you updated as I make progress.”

Here’s why clients like the email:

They don’t expect me to deliver the work immediately, but at least they know I received the request and plan to get to work. Informed client = happy client.

Also see: The Email Every Leader Should Write

2. Several days have passed without an update 

Here’s what the email looks like:

“Hi [person’s first name],

I want to give you an update on [name of project]. [Then, explain where things stand and when you expect to have everything finished.]

I’ll keep you updated as we move forward.”

Here’s why clients like the email:

Like George R. R. Martin’s message to fans, people want to know what the heck is going on.

And again, if you’re way past deadline or screwing up, even the nicest “check in” email won’t save you. If everything is on the up-and-up — but the project happens to drag on — the client will appreciate the note.

Also see: The Closing Line for Five Critical Work Emails

3. You believe you will miss the deadline

Here’s what the email looks like (you will likely need to modify to fit your situation):

“Hi [person’s first name],

I know we hoped to finish [name of project] by [date], but at this point I don’t think we will meet the deadline.

To wrap everything up, we still need to complete the following tasks:

  • Task A
  • Task B
  • Task C

Our team will continue to work hard and finish everything as soon as possible. [If you need the client to pitch in too, explain here.]

Thanks for understanding, and please let me know if you have questions.”

Here’s why clients like the email:

Yes, the client is agitated you missed the deadline. Oh well — it is what it is.

What matters is you owned up to the tardiness, identified remaining tasks and showed you intend to work hard until the job is done.

How do you keep clients in the know throughout a project?

Share in the comments!

 

Featured photo: Carter McKendry (Flickr)

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