4 Pointers for Dealing With Difficult Clients
Some clients are more difficult than others. Here are four of the most common types you will meet, and tips for setting expectations without losing your cool—or their business:
After-hours urgency. You just received four voicemails from a client … at 8 p.m. The needs are not urgent, but you want to be responsive. How do you let the client know you are accessible without setting a precedent that infringes on your personal time? If it’s a new client, call back and field the questions. Then, let him know when you are typically available by phone, or when you normally check and respond to voicemails, texts and emails. As a good business practice, let all clients and partners know your availability and response times, so expectations are clear.
Nitpicking. Sometimes nitpickers can improve processes and routine communication with new insights. But nitpickers also can slow you down by stalling or derailing a process. Clearly articulate processes, timelines and deliverables with all clients. Also set limitations on the number of changes or alterations you’re willing to make on a project before additional charges ensue and timelines are pushed back.
Ongoing delays. People delay for any number of reasons. Some like to gather more (and more) information to feel they are fully informed about a decision they are about to make. Others like to analyze (and overanalyze) a situation. Some simply like to “sleep on it” to process information. Gently remind clients when time is of the essence and how delays could cost them.
Penny pinching. A client who seems more focused on cutting costs than getting value from your work may have a hidden issue, like a cash-flow problem. Clearly outline services and associated fees with all clients from the get-go. If you have a penny pincher, see if you can identify reasons for the concerns. Perhaps you can work out alternative billing arrangements or modify services if it’s a win-win for you both.
The bottom line is to stay positive and be clear about what clients can expect throughout all stages of working with you. In many cases, the next job clients hire you to do will go smoother with clear expectations on both sides. Ultimately, though, remember it’s okay to part ways with a client who continues to be disrespectful of your time and regularly pulls you away from serving other clients.
Feel free to pass these pointers along to your team, clients and colleagues.