In this post I am going to share with you 5 Tips to Deal with Difficult Clients. I think the most important part is to know that dealing with difficult people is a skill. I wholeheartedly believe that it is something that you can learn and get good at.
There are many difficult clients in this world and definitely in the Creative Industry. I am also going to say that we have all been a difficult client at some point or the other, for various reasons. So don’t judge them too harshly. Sometimes that just had a bad day and unfortunately you were the first point of contact.
Having the skill of dealing with difficult clients are an absolute game changer when having your own business. It is inevitable that you will have a difficult client at some point or the other. Which makes this skill a top ranking one – in my opinion.
These are my Top 5 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Clients:
1. It’s business, not personal
This is a hard one to swallow. This is also the hardest one to swallow if you are a creative and you have put a little bit of your soul into your creation. But your client is not happy. The first step for you to know and understand is that it is not PERSONAL. IT IS BUSINESS.
It is going to take some time to internalize this principle. But that is what it is – a principle. You need to live by it.
You need to compartmentalize the situation and problem and know that everything this client is saying or doing, is business. That means that the reasoning behind the whole thing is not personal. It has nothing to do with you as a person or how you feel.
Next time you have a difficult client you should literally keep on reminding yourself that this is not personal. Even if you have to say it on repeat.
2. Pick your battles
Sometimes you need to pick the battles to win the war. What you need to determine is which war you are fighting. Is it to keep the client? Is it to grow your business?
This can be tricky! The easiest is to take a step back and think about:
- What is it that the Client wants?
- How much effort is it going to take on my part to comply?
- Is it going to be worth my while if I change or comply with the request?
If any of these questions are NO or I would even go so far to say a MAYBE. Then do not comply with the request. But if it is really not going to make a difference to anything except your bruised feelings – then don’t pick the battle.
3. Be a Good Listener
Our knee-jerk reaction to complaints, insults, criticism or not-so-friendly feedback is to be upset. To react and justify why we have done what we have done, and I include myself. It is a default human setting.
More often than not, taking the time to really listen to the client will help you to understand what the ACTUAL PROBLEM IS. It is sometimes not even what they are saying. But the things they are not saying.
Listening can be very difficult, especially when the person on the other side of the conversation is not being very nice. However, staying calm and taking the time to really listen is not easy. Take a deep breath and focus. Listening is a skill that you can practice.
4. Have a Complaints Procedure
I know this sounds strange. But this really helps with:
- staying calm
- feeling confident
- knowing what to do next
That is the long and short of it. You can have this in your contract – of how a client must escalate problems. My contracts include a clause to say that the client must take the time to first refer the compliant to you. You need to know what the complaint is in order to be able to fix it. Cause what you don’t know, you can’t fix.
Take the time to write your complaints procedure and how and by when you are going to resolve something. It doesn’t have to be right away. As part of your procedure your can advise the client that you will reply within 48 hours. (This is going to depend on the urgency of the concern).
5. Try Humor
Sometimes the easiest way of dealing with a difficult client is just trying humor. Making a joke about something. This alleviates the stress from the situation immediately. It also makes your client a friendlier person to deal with.
Life is in any case too serious. It doesn’t mean that you are not taking the concern of the client serious if you make a joke – it just means that there is a lighter side to life. Problems and concerns are not always the end of the world.
Dealing with difficult clients can and always will be tricky. There is never going to be a magic fix for difficult situations. However, you can do to make your life a little easier as a small business owner, is to use the tips that I have given. Make it apart of your business.
My webinar deals with difficult people and how to handle them in your business. You can listen to the Intro and first module for free. How to Sort your Legal Stuff and Grow your business.