11 Ways To Cope With Difficult Clients

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Business is not, and has never been, for the faint-hearted. Some clients may cause you enough grief to make you want to drop them, or worse, quit the business. The former is a possibility, but some - who you worked hard to get - can be the most demanding but also the best clients, so dropping them is not an option. You are in business to make money. No matter what obstacles you come across, quitting is not an option.

You can cope with even your most difficult client in several ways, which will leave both you and the client satisfied.

1. Be detail specific

Some clients have a habit of generalizing issues. They never say exactly what they mean, and never give exact details. For example, they might insist you normally deliver faulty goods, but cannot point out a day or time when this happened.

If you are dealing with a difficult client, the chances they will try to pin non-existent faults on you are high. The best way to deal with such a client, especially if they are continually difficult, is to ask them to be specific on the exact day and time something happened. Doing this throws them off, especially if it was a baseless complaint.

Explain to the client how you intend to solve the problem. It might just be something small, blown out of context. This will help ease the tension, and calm the client down.

2. Keep checking on them

As much as you might not want to keep in contact with the difficult client, it is inevitable. You need to monitor how they are doing. Keep track of any transaction you might have with them by making sure it is going as planned.

When dealing with a difficult client, the slightest lapse in your plans may develop into a huge row that you can avoid by just being vigilant. Check with them on a regular basis, making sure everything is in place and the customer feels valued. This way, the customer has less to complain about, unless they are just being a nuisance.

3. Empathise even if you don’t agree

The most annoying thing to an already aggravated customer is not having their concerns addressed. The most difficult client is not easy to calm down. Empathy works like a charm. You do not have to agree with them but you can empathize, which to an annoyed client works very much the same way.

Do not get defensive with an already angry client. Remember, all they need is calmness. Let them know you understand what they are going through, and offer a solution.

4. Record everything

If you are dealing with a client who keeps changing their mind at every turn, make sure you record every transaction and every conversation. It is incredibly frustrating having to deal with someone who keeps changing their mind, or insisting on something you clearly did not agree on.

5. Be an active listener

There is a huge difference between listening and hearing. Most people do not listen. The best thing you can do is learn how to listen actively. Listen to what the client is really saying. Learn to read between the lines.

When you listen, you can find a solution, because you will understand the problem. Do not rush to solve a problem by assuming the customer is wrong. The saying, ‘the customer is always right,’ comes into play.

6. Be careful what you say

Sometimes it is more about what and how you say it. You have to be careful that your language does not display subtle aggression, which angers the client more. You may say something to a client that may sound normal to you, but it instead sounds condescending.

Listen to the kind of language your client uses, and try to counter that if they are the aggressive type. Choose your words with care. If your client uses aggressive words or insults, stay calm, no matter how much you want to bite the client’s head off! Your choice of words will make the situation either worse or better.

7. Learn to tell when it’s a difference in personalities

It is not always about you, or the client. It is about your personalities being discordant. If this is the case and your personalities do clash, you are better off looking for someone else to deal with the client.

If you are a sole entrepreneur, you have no choice but to learn how to deal with the client if you cannot afford to let them go. The client might just surprise you in the long run.

8. Set goals

Set goals for what your client wants to achieve over an agreed time period. Work on that instead of trying to solve petty issues that have no solution. There is no need to waste time, which you can use to finish the client’s job. Keeping the customer happy should be your ultimate goal.

9. Learn how to let go

Learn how to relieve stress and separate work from your personal life. If you keep carrying anger and stress caused by angry clients, you will possibly end up in hospital!

Being calm and composed makes it easier to deal with difficult clients. When you have anger management issues and stress, you are likely to transfer those to your clients. Someone who is not in the right frame of mind cannot solve a difficult client’s issues. There are a number of ways of addressing stress in life: as well as the much-lauded yoga and meditation of more recent times, any sport or activity that allows you to switch off from business-related activities is a boon for your mental health.

10. Stay in control

Always make sure that you are in total control of the situation. The minute you let the client steer the conversation, you have lost it. This goes hand in hand with staying calm and collected. It helps you to steer the conversation in the direction you want, otherwise the client getting the upper hand will not be pretty.

Some clients can be manipulative, and once you let them dominate the situation, you might incur losses if they demand refunds, or replacement of products. Staying in control ensures you get to the root cause of the issue, and solve it before it gets out of hand.

11. Let them go

If the worst comes to the worst, and the value of keeping the client does not make sense, let them go. Not all business is necessarily good business. Sometimes it may be too draining to keep some clients, while the business they bring in is negligible. Most of the time, the above tactics will calm even the most irate of clients. If none of them are successful, then the best option is to cut the client loose to let you concentrate on your other clients.

While in the course of business, you get to meet all sorts of personalities. While you may not be perfect, there are those clients who are too demanding, too easily irritated or just plain unpleasant. The nature of doing business is that you have to take these clients in your stride, and employ all necessary tactics to deal with them.

The probability of the above tactics not working is very slim, but it does happen. Once it happens, then you need to cut your losses and move on. That client might just met their match elsewhere. The trick is to not let such people get to you. Find a way to relieve stress, and to separate your work and home issues.

Do you have any pressing questions or ideas you would like to share with us? Feel free to post them in the comments section below.

Posted 30 October, 2017


Sales & Marketing Guru

Edward is the Sales & Marketing Correspondent for Freelancer.com. He is currently based in Sydney, and is a self-confessed ice-cream fan.

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