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5 tips for dealing with difficult clients

From the Resene Trade blog

Wouldn't it be wonderful if everything just went perfectly all the time – perfect weather, perfect timing and perfect clients? Unfortunately the chances of that happening all the time isn't likely to happen any time soon.

You will always encounter a mixed bag of clients. Some will be a pleasure to work with, many will simply be your standard client, and a select few will fall into the ‘difficult client’ group.

It’s inevitable that you will encounter them at some point, so the best you can do is be prepared to handle them so you can minimise frustration and the loss of time. Remember these tips next time one of your customers turns out to be more demanding than most.

1. Start by listening

Difficult customers often just want to make sure they are heard. They may have had a situation in the past where they felt misunderstood or ignored, so will want to ensure you have heard and understood their demands. Your willingness to listen carefully early in the relationship will help them to trust you further down the track.

Some clients will be more difficult than others. Sometimes they seem difficult or indecisive but it may be that they just don’t feel like they have enough information to progress.

2. Give detailed information of your plans

Tricky customers are usually those who want to know exactly what is happening, when it’s happening, and how it’s happening. Even though it won’t change the work itself, it’s important to keep your client up to date with as much information about the process as possible. This will make them feel in the loop with the work, and it will keep them from ringing you asking for updates throughout the process.

Be sure to include possible reasons for timing issues, and make sure they know what you need from them to keep the project running smoothly from start to finish.

A regular quick progress update can help clients feel assured that the work is in hand and that you are on top of their project. No updates means you risk them filling up the silence with their own worst case scenarios.

3. Fix mistakes

If your client is being difficult due to a mistake, don’t put off dealing with the solution. Resolve any issues as soon as possible to rectify the situation and regain your client’s trust.

Some problems are easier to solve than others. A good place to start is to put yourself in the customer’s position and think about what you would want as a resolution if you were them. That way you’re more likely to end up with a fair solution.

Often the best way to resolve a problem is just to ask the customer what action they want you to take to make it right. Sometimes this might be working later into the evening or over a weekend to help them get their project done for an important deadline.

4. Communicate during and after the project

While you’re completing the work, keep your client updated with quick messages or calls to explain where you are in the process and how it’s all going.

Once you've finished, talk to them again to remind them of the value of getting the work done to ensure they walk away feeling good about the project. Let them know any specific care instructions for any of the finishes so that they know how to keep things looking good.

5. Don’t put up with abuse

Some clients are just difficult – others can be outright rude and ungrateful.

If you spot one of the latter before you agree to work together, remember that you can turn the work down. In some cases, customers will be impossible to please, and will end up costing more time and effort than is beneficial to you and your business. If this is the case, simply let them know that you are too busy to take on their project to avoid burning bridges.

If you don’t think the client will be beneficial to your business, you can always turn down the project.

If you do find yourself working with a difficult client, look on the bright side. Sometimes your most demanding clients actually help you to improve your business by pointing out shortfalls in service that other clients might have been too polite to tell you, or by suggesting new ideas that you had never considered before. Difficult customers can also push you to do things you might not have thought possible, which may help you expand the range of services you can offer others in future.

Difficult clients often don’t stay difficult. Once you develop trust with them and complete a successful project, they can be incredibly loyal clients.

May 2020

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