“We need to talk about…”
“We’re not happy with…”
“We’d like to provide feedback on deliverables…”
“Can we schedule a call to talk about…”
These are all phrases than can incite panic when working with a client. But it’s important as a business owner, especially if you’re a solopreneur just getting started, to not feel discouraged or panic when dealing with tricky clients.
Regardless of what industry you are in, business owners will always have to deal with a difficult client at some point. This is why you need to have a plan in place to deal with unhappy customers — even if they’re “not always right.” The way your business handles tricky situations with clients will make all the difference in word-of-mouth references and whether or not your clients stay or come back, and this can make or break your business.
We put together seven important factors to remember when dealing with tricky clients.
Difficult Clients are a Fact of Business
Having to deal with all types of difficult clients should be considered an inevitable part of running a small business. Even if you rarely make mistakes and always offer a reliable and professional service, at some point there might be an error, or the client will feel like you’ve not met their expectations. Clients of course also have their own stresses and pressures and you may find this is projected onto you and your business. These can be difficult situations, but it’s important not to take it personally.
Remain Professional & Calm
Having clients criticize your business or staff isn’t easy. As a business owner, we take these things very personal since our business is often our passion and livelihood — a place we pour blood, sweat and tears. But, it’s important to set aside your emotions. Even if the client is in the wrong, voicing this could just make things worse. Always remain calm and professional and focus on resolving the situation. In some cases, it might be better to deal with complaints in writing if it helps you remain calm, cool and collected, rather than in person or on the phone. Just remember to do the following life hack if you’re feeling overly heated:
- Let go.
- Loosen up.
- Chew slowly.
- Enjoy the journey.
- Look at the big picture.
- Stop demanding perfection of yourself.
- Practice patience every day.
At the start of the relationship, it’s important that you know what your client’s expectations are. You can then review and feedback to them about what is realistic for you and your business. There’s no point in saying you can do everything they require, when you simply do not have the time or resources to cover the work. So, start your relationship out by being honest and realistic with them to avoid any issues further down the line.
One of the most basic things you should do is to keep a record of all conversations with your clients. Follow up with an email to the client that summarizes the main points of the conversation. This might seem like a time-consuming task, but it can prove to be crucial evidence should the client’s record of events ever be different to yours. It’s also great to have a project plan that is agreed upon by all parties and can be followed, should there ever be conversations about work that is not completed or that doesn’t fall within the budget.
If you or someone in your company has made a mistake, then admit it to the client. Even if it means admitting that the results haven’t been as good as expected. In doing so, the chances are your client will be more forgiving and understanding. It shows you are honest with nothing to hide, and respect them as a client. This will likely always foster a better client-business relationship over hiding and pretending.
Don’t Forget Social Media
Social media makes it easier than ever for clients to express their views and complain in public. This means it’s crucial that you are proactive with tackling client complaints, especially online. Set up your own Twitter and Facebook account and monitor it regularly, responding to any client complaints in good time. If possible, respond to the client publicly but then ask to move the conversation to a more private forum such as email or messages. This will show other customers or potential clients reviewing social media posts that you are proactive and respond to complaints, but hides sensitive business or client information from being posted publicly on the web.
Know When it’s Time to Say Goodbye
Sometimes, you may find that it’s simply time to end a client relationship. When all else has failed and it seems not worth the battle any longer, it may be time to cut your losses and focus on your other clients. Not all client relationships will work out the way you want them to, but it’s important to end on good terms. You never know when your paths may cross again, so take care not to burn bridges.
Is Your Business Formed as an LLC or Corporation Yet?
If not, you could be subject to liability from unhappy or tricky clients if they decide to sue. Protect yourself and your personal assets by incorporating your business. We can help you out for as little as $49 + state fees — the best price in the industry. Plus, we have a nifty dashboard and great customer service to support you along your journey as a business owner.
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