Difficult clients don’t have to cause you difficulties. Your frame of mind, and how you perceive difficult clients, and clients with difficulties or complaints, is all important.
The situation can also normally be avoided in the first place with good communication with your client from the outset.
If the situation arises though, instead of looking at a difficult client or issue as a problem, or letting it affect you and your business negatively, you can of course see it as an opportunity – which it is! Here’s a reminder of the ways in which it can be advantageous for both you and your client.
Firstly, know the difference between a difficult client and an impossible client
There is a chance you’ll get the rare, impossible client. Someone who – for example – is untruthful to the point of making your work impossible, or is bullying, or purposefully offensive, refuses to pay you up-front or abide by your policies/procedures…
Don’t waste your time with them. Don’t feel the need to endure them for the sake of making money, because there are plenty of other clients out there who you can enjoy working with. Let an impossible client go, and move on. The time and pain involved in trying to help an impossible client, or resolve any issues with them, is never worth it.
Normal difficult clients (and clients who are experiencing difficulties) are those with some kind of genuine issue – or maybe are just difficult to work with on a professional level for some reason.
They bring you opportunities to improve and grow your business.
What I’m talking about below is related to clients who are – for example – unresponsive, have gotten upset/angry about something, have a complaint, are dissatisfied with your work, take too long to pay you, are hard-to-please, find it hard to follow your directions or understand what’s needed on their part…and so on.
Complaints help us to improve as a service provider
An angry client, just for an extreme example, can be a great source of blunt and honest feedback for you. Even a client with a minor complaint offers you valuable feedback.
Hearing what they say objectively (and not letting yourself become entangled in, or respond to, their emotions) helps you find out what went wrong, why, and how you can avoid similar causes of displeasure in the future.
Calmly taking their problem onboard and going on to rectify the cause of your client’s distress – and possibly apologising by giving them a gift (discount, extra service…) – can turn an uncomfortable situation into a chance to impress your client, and deepen your relationship with them.
By listening carefully and making a goal for yourself to turn them from an unhappy customer into a delighted customer will help you grow as a service provider.
Also, any complaints or dissatisfaction from one client can really help you understand the pain points your customers in general may be experiencing with your service/products. Businesses that don’t listen to unhappy customers are never able to meet their true potential.
You learn how to create and offer better solutions
Unresponsive customers let you see where communications could be better, and help you to know how better systems and procedures can be set up. For instance, always agreeing with your client from day one on how they prefer to communicate (email, phone etc.), when and where they will normally be available, and so on.
Upset/angry customers bring to light where you might have been insensitive, negligent or lacking in the delivery of your service and so on. You can pinpoint where improvements can be made in order to avoid such a response from future clients.
Complaining customers are the same as upset/angry customers, giving you insights into where things could be improved, and inspiring or motivating you to find preventative solutions for the cause of the complaint.
Customers dissatisfied with your work are different because it may be simply a matter of opinion on their part. More than one dissatisfied customer should ring alarm bells though and help you establish where improvements can be made. If someone is dissatisfied with your work, it may be related to poor communication in the first place as to what was expected by the client…in which case, you can look at where you could have been more clear when letting them know what to expect…
Customers who take too long to pay you offer you the opportunity to review when and how you invoice clients, what they agree to in your contract, how your policies are communicated to them at the outset, and how much work you will or won’t do until the payment or next installment arrives.
Customers who are hard-to-please give you opportunity to practice going deeper with your client, to find out exactly what they want, or discover how improvements can be made to your communications system/procedures. But – as with all the above – remember to notice when they are moving into the ‘impossible client’ zone, where it’s best to admit you won’t be able to help them.
Customers who find it hard to follow your directions, or understand what’s needed on their part, give you opportunity to either improve your communications or to impress them by giving them extra attention (within reason) to help them through their difficulties. If they just aren’t getting it, you can create a different way of doing things and getting the job done, where you do things for them instead, and offer this as an upgraded, additional-fee service. Maybe even develop a special done-for-you service for those who might benefit from it, to offer along with your main services…
You can create ‘raving fans’
Due to a lot of service providers not handling this sort of thing very well, the client may not be expecting your amazing and gratifying response to the situation. This will make you stand out as an exceptional service provider!
When you turn a disgruntled customer into a delighted customer, or at least deal with the situation well, they will be impressed, and more happy to recommend you to other prospects.
When the project ends and you ask them for a review or testimonial, or to share info about your service with their contacts/following etc., they will be more inclined to help you out in this way – or may even do it before you ask them to.
If you handle it really well, they might continue to recommend you to others as a go-to service provider into the future.
So remember to welcome any difficult client or situation with relish, in the knowledge that it’s always an opportunity for growth and perfecting your service.
What’s the worst experience you’ve had with a client? Could you have dealt with it better? Did you make the most of the situation? Please comment below and tell us all about it…
Aspect Avenue Founder. Victor has worked at home for 20 years, mainly as a web designer, developer and web consultant since before the days of Google and social media! He has been involved with a variety of business ideas, and worked with a wide variety of business types, large and small. Aspect Avenue is now his main business.