IS IT TIME TO FIRE A DIFFICULT CLIENT?
Difficult clients cannot only rattle you in the moment but also cause long term stress and strain on your business. When a client is upset, you’re going to want to solve the problem, not only for your current situation but also to prevent any in the future. To do this, get feedback on potential solutions from the client. Together, you can work out a solution that fits both of you.
Have you ever had a client that caused your stomach to go in knots when the phone rang? Nothing ever seemed right and no matter how hard you tried, they were never satisfied. Some people just aren’t a fit. Long-term stress can cause you and your employees to experience a variety of symptoms that can all translate into business downfalls, such as:
- Decreased morale
- Decreased motivation
- Reduced productivity
- Strained relationships with clients and employees
- Decreased business and financial performance
Working with clients isn’t always easy. To handle an unexpected client blow up, consider these tips:
You don’t want to respond to your angry client in an emotional way – this only escalates the situation. Instead, use a calm and understanding tone when you respond. Always stay neutral and keep a calm facial expression.
When responding to an online complaint– acknowledge the situation and apologize – then take the conversation offline.
Actively listen to what they’re saying
This means stopping and really hearing what they’re saying. Consider the validity of their complaints.
- Make eye contact
- Ask questions when you don’t understand something
- Express positive body language. Open your posture while you’re either sitting or standing. Closed positions such as folded arms may communicate that you’re not interested in what they’re saying
- Repeat back to the client your understanding of the problem
Show concern and sympathy for the situation
Certain phrases that help you do this include:
- “I hear what you’re saying…”
- “I see your point…”
- Always ask questions
Ask key questions
Asking key questions to bring focus and discover important details that can help you solve the problem. Some questions to consider include:
- “What could we have done differently?”
- “What would you consider to be a reasonable solution?”
- “How can we make it up to you?”
This is an important step when dealing with an upset or difficult client. You want the client to leave feeling understood, feeling heard, and knowing the problem is going to get fixed. Apologizing can help retain the client.
Sometimes, no matter how you respond to a client, they still won’t calm down. Clients who are out of hand typically:
- Won’t stop saying personal insults to you or your employees
- Won’t stop yelling or screaming at you or your employees
- Won’t listen to any logic you present
- Make threats to you or your employees
In a situation where a client is demonstrating the behaviors outlined above, your first step should be to warn them in the nicest way possible. At this point, you must take control and defuse the situation or ask the client to leave your business. In the event you have a virtual business, you may decide that you just aren’t the best provider for them.
Learn to take difficult clients in stride
Difficult clients don’t have to bring you or your business down. With proper client management strategies, you can effectively de-escalate situations in no time. From there, you can strategize with your team ways to meet even the toughest client’s requests. If all else fails – perhaps they aren’t the right fit and will be happier with another provider.
About the author: Autumn Edmiston is the CEO and owner of the Edmiston Group. The Edmiston Group is a multifaceted Pittsburgh based marketing consulting firm providing senior level marketing management services to businesses and non-profit organizations on a short or long-term basis. Core areas of service are business development, marketing, strategic planning and public relations. The Edmiston Group has consistently delivered and implemented real-world, proven business marketing ideas and strategies for business.