Conflict with a client is not only unpleasant, it can be bad for your financial advisory business. In a worst-case scenario, conflict left unresolved can result in a loss of business or damage to your reputation.

“If you ignore conflict or avoid conflict, it can lead to feelings of regret, guilt or resentment [for both the client and the advisor],” says Rosemary Smyth, business coach and owner of Victoria-based Rosemary Smyth and Associates.

Most conflicts between advisors and clients are a result of miscommunication, Smyth adds. For example, there might be conflict if certain fees were brought to a client’s attention only recently.

To deal with conflict directly, Smyth recommends employing these five strategies:

1. Ask for advice
Speak with a mentor or another objective person to discuss the situation that’s causing the conflict.

For example, if you’re a rookie, it’s always best to hear advice from someone who has been through a similar situation with a client, Smyth says. By discussing the conflict with someone else, you can gain better perspective on both sides of the issue.

2. Resolve the issue in person
Tone within email communications can sometimes come across as impersonal or unclear. To avoid any further misunderstandings, it’s best to meet face-to-face, Smyth says.

Meeting in person also demonstrates that you’re making an honest attempt to resolve the issue, Smyth adds. Responding to an angry client’s complaint by email does not appear as genuine.

3. Prepare a response
If you do set up a meeting or phone call to resolve the conflict, it’s a good idea to prepare a few talking points.

Because conflict often stems from poor communication, Smyth adds, preparing a few thoughts can help you articulate your needs.

4. Apologize when appropriate
Be aware of your own part in creating conflict, Smyth says.

If you have made a mistake, be willing to acknowledge that and say you’re sorry — even if the conflict is not entirely a result of your own actions.

For example, if your assistant has made a mistake on a file that leads to conflict with a client, accept responsibility for the error and explain how you’re going to handle the situation.

5. Focus on the resolution
To deal with conflict appropriately, you should be willing to meet the other person halfway and collaborate on a solution, Smyth says.

“The goal beyond resolution is to find a solution that suits both sides.”

This is the second part in a two-part series on handling conflict.

Read part one: Dealing with conflict at the office

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