How to Deal with Difficult Clients Effectively and Efficiently in Business
Unless you are extremely lucky, coming across difficult clients is a fact of life for entrepreneurs. It seems to be that the more successful you get (and more visible you become), some people become jealous of you or don’t treat you in the right way. It's important to remember that people’s actions should not stop you from doing what you want to do. Nobody is invincible so sooner or later you will make an error or won’t meet a client’s expectations. It may be the case that the client is unclear of what you actually do, are having a bad day themselves and are taking their frustrations out on you, or simply, are just hard to please.
Discover my top tips for managing clients (who are demanding, unrealistic, rude or problematic) professionally!
- When it comes to clients and how they treat you, you need to be firm and stand up for yourself. You can be polite and professional but it doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat. People will take advantage!
- It is so important not to take things personally as other people’s comments and actions can make you feel bad and like a failure, perhaps resulting in you wanting to give it all up (I've been there)! You need to be strong and rise above all this - your self-worth should only be about how you see and value yourself, not be connected to what other people think of you or how much money you are earning each month. Don’t let negativity in! You have set boundaries in life so have boundaries in your business. You can’t choose your family but you can choose who you let into your life. Be around positive people. You will find that people will respect you more when you have those boundaries.
- Remember to bear in mind the Circle of Influence. This consists of concerns, actions and reactions that are within your own control. You CAN change these things. (It’s your business, your choice as to how you want to run it, what work you do and which clients you want to work with). You CANNOT change what other people do or say.
- Always ensure that you have a clear contract drawn up for every client you work with. This needs to have details of the type of work which you have been required to complete for the client, any time-frames and deadlines, and whether there is any scope for further amendments or follow up work. The clearer you can define expectations and boundaries on both sides, the less likely it is that you'll have to face challenges from the client.
For face to face, telephone or skype call complaints
When dealing with clients who are not happy with the work or service you have done or are doing for them, listen to their concerns without interrupting them. When they have finished speaking, recap on what they have said - this shows that you have heard what they had to say and should make them feel less aggrieved. You then need to decide how you are going to respond.
- Acknowledge any misunderstandings but do not agree. People may get angry when you defend/justify yourself or your business.
- Explain your point of view in a non-defensive manner. Perhaps agree to correct the situation free of charge.
- Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Be specific with your targets and also those of your client. Set realistic deadlines and project outcomes.
- If you feel you are able to continue working with this particular client on other projects, acknowledge it then forget about the complaint and move on as if nothing has happened. Learning to let go is something we all have to do in life sometimes!
- Don’t blame them - even if they are in the wrong, focus on finding a solution and resolving the matter. You may need to change the way you phrase what you're trying to communicate. For example, "I see the problem, you skipped this step..." to "I see the problem, all we have to do is..."
If the client becomes angry or abusive towards you, keep calm and professional. If you feel the above points are not an option you can:
- Consider giving a refund or using a "kill fee" in your contract which basically is a pay off to terminate their contract and relationship with you.
- Cut ties - you do not have to be treated that way!
For email or any other online messaging complaints
- Do not respond immediately to emails of complaint. You need time to calm down and think rationally about what has been said and how you are going to respond. Perhaps leave it until the next day before replying - do not ignore it though, it will not go away!
One negative, upset, abusive client can spoil the rest of your day if you let it. Try to remain focused on your business and on the clients you enjoy working with! This all counteracts the bad experiences you may have and makes everything all worthwhile!
There's a whole module on dealing with clients in Fabulous Foundations and it's also something we share tips on regularly in GSD Society - why not come and join us so you feel more confident and prepared for dealing with these inevitable situations?