Tips to Help You Handle Difficult Clients
Once you’ve been in business for a while, you’ll recognize there are four different types of clients. Hopefully, you’ve dealt with the first type of client, the dream client. They fit your ideal client description perfectly and they love your work. The second client type you probably deal with the most. You know them as the great client. You don’t have many issues with them and they are easy-going. The next client you know as the okay client. They sometimes have issues, but for the most part, you work well with them. This last client you may know as the scourge of all business owners, the one nightmares are made of: the difficult client. These clients are no one’s favorite client. They waste time, money, and energy. They steal the joy of your business. Use the following tips so you’re prepared to deal with a difficult client.
Actively Listen to Lessen Their Frustration
Some difficult clients do need to vent frustration. Practice active listening. Listen not to respond right away, but to hear what your client is saying. Do not think about what you plan to say or you could miss something important. Respond with a summary of what they said and ask them if that is correct. If not, ask them to reiterate what they mean. Show you are listening by using your body language (if speaking with them in person) and tone of voice. Look them in the eyes. Nod occasionally. Sometimes all it takes to turn a difficult client around is for someone to listen to them and take them seriously. Using active listening as the first step in handling a difficult client.
De-escalating an Irate Client
If a difficult client grows irate, the easiest thing to combat their aggression is quiet and slow speech. However, make sure that your client doesn’t think that you’re patronizing them. When a customer is yelling out you, they'll have to quiet their own speech if yours is soft. Don't let this convince you that you're becoming a doormat to your client, though. Speak firmly and stay alert. Show a sense of control and don't show fear. The client may try to make you furious to possibly get what they want. Unless there is an emergency, this shows your client that they can relax and that they don't need to be aggressive in their demands.
Realize that this attack isn't personal. No matter how the client is feeling or what they are saying, this attack is toward your business and has nothing to do with you.
If you do start to feel angry, imagine there are other clients observing the exchange. You don't want to lose your cool in front of other clients. This helps you remain firm and performing beautifully without giving way to frustration.
Acknowledge, But Don't Necessarily Agree
Sometimes a difficult client comes to you with a problem. Sometimes this problem isn't a problem at all or is even something they asked you to do! When this happens, acknowledge your client's worries or demands, but unless there is a problem, you don't have to agree.
A difficult client might get dates wrong or imagine they are promised or entitled to something they didn’t receive. When this happens, don't blame the client. Your client will likely feel like you are attacking them even if you ask a seemingly innocent question such as, "Are you sure you read that correctly?" Don't blame your business or vendors, either. Avoid blaming anyone. Tell the truth and if you did make a mistake, take responsibility for it and make it right.
Fire Your Client
If your client regularly doesn't like your work or makes unreasonable demands, you will get to the point of considering firing them. Don't take this consideration lightly. It can be harder and more expensive to replace a client than to work with a difficult one, especially when it costs your business a significant part of your income.
If you decide to fire your client, do so carefully. Make sure you provide all the services your client has paid for or be willing to refund their money. Treat your client respectfully when you let them know that you feel like they may work better with someone else. Perhaps even refer them to a competitor. Don't burn bridges.
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