Giving constructive feedback to candidates is something we’re used to doing every day, but when was the last time you gave honest feedback to a client?
The idea can be pretty daunting, but if you handle it the right way, providing feedback to your clients can help strengthen your relationships and lead to a long line of repeat business.
So how do you approach giving clients constructive feedback?
Focus on the situation, not them
It’s always good to be honest with clients, but giving feedback to a hiring manager can put them on the spot and make them feel embarrassed if they’re not expecting it. And when people feel embarrassed, they tend to get defensive - which only ever ends badly!
A good way to avoid a situation where your client slips into defensive mode, focus your feedback on the situation rather than anything they’ve done.
So for example, instead of saying something like “you’re expecting too much”, try something like “what can I do to help manage your expectations better moving forward?”
This approach will feel more like a productive conversation than direct criticism, and should help you and your client to work closer together rather than against each other.
Don’t point the finger
When you’re giving feedback, it’s important to acknowledge that you’re also part of the process, and using ‘we’ rather than ‘you’ can be a good way to do this.
When you use the word ‘we’, you’re referring to yourself and your client as a team that needs to work together to get better results. On the other hand, if you use the word ‘you’, this implies you think the problem lies entirely with them – a good example of how easy it can be to slip from assertiveness into aggression without meaning to.
It’s easy to see how much these words change a sentence when they’re side by side:
“You need to communicate better” vs. “We need to communicate better”
Even if you’re feeling like the client is responsible for an issue you’re having, be the bigger (wo)man and accept that the situation can only be improved by working together.
Use a compliment sandwich
You probably use this tactic already when you give your candidates feedback. It’s a method known in the sales worlds as a ‘compliment sandwich’ and known more colourfully in the recruitment world as a ‘sh** sandwich’. Charming!
Whatever you call it, it’s a straight-forward technique to use and can be really effective at delivering any negative feedback in a more positive way. A compliment sandwich works by starting and ending your feedback with something positive, touching on any negatives in between.
This will soften the blow of any feedback your client might not like and make them more likely to take on board what you have to say.
Use evidence to back up your claims
Difficult feedback can come across less negatively if you’re able to provide evidence that backs up your points. Wherever possible, try to use first-hand accounts and data to backup anything you want to say to a client that you think they might not like.
For example, if a specific line manager is putting candidates off a job when they interview them, prove it by showing your client the number of candidates who’ve pulled out of the process after interviewing with this line manager.
If you base your feedback on solid evidence rather than your own opinion, your client will be more inclined to respect your feedback and more likely consider making changes that you recommend.
These are the types of conversations that build strong client relationships and ultimately lead to winning retained business. If you're not selling retainers yet, our eBook will show you how: