I’ve had my share of working with difficult clients. Fortunately, there hasn’t been many at all. I’ve only had two. I can remember them well and even write down my own psychoanalysis of each. One took no accountability for their actions or lack of, and the other had a short temper. The one thing they both had in common was neither of them respected boundaries.
Recently, I’ve had four business associates come to me with this situation. How to deal with difficult clients. They are currently challenged with this and stressed out about it.
As an entrepreneur, dealing with a difficult client is bound to happen at some point. Just like working for a difficult manager or supervisor. It’s one of those things that we either allow to stress us out or overcome by a show of your character.
The advantage that we have as an entrepreneur is the ability to choose who we want to work with. When you create your buyer’s persona a complete psychographics of your client should be segmented.
But sometimes, someone else may slip through the cracks. The Container Store refers to these customers as 1 percenters. These are customers who don’t fit their buyer’s persona but find their way into their stores.
And that’s exactly what it is, those who don’t fit. The clients we consider difficult are the ones who don’t fit. They don’t fit our brand or culture. These are the ones we want to avoid and while they can are screened through forms and consultations, sometimes they fall through the cracks.
In dealing with these situations I’ve learned the following things reduces stress, de-escalates tension, and allows you to maintain control of the situation.
Establishing boundaries is necessary when working with difficult clients. Mental and emotional boundaries are healthy to have when working in a professional settings. Sometimes the clients that are actually difficult to work with, don’t respect boundaries. You let them know what is okay for you and what you will allow by example.
For example, if you’d rather clients not call or text you on Sundays because it’s time you spend with your family, then be sure you never respond to communication or initiate communication during these days. Acknowledge that communication during a time that you would prefer to receive it.
When you respond be strategic in how you position yourself and establish that boundary. Instead of saying “Hi, I got your message Sunday but I don’t work Sundays.” try “Hi, I got your message Sunday. Sundays are a day that I dedicate to family. I will work on your request today.” What you’ve done is set an expectation and learned behavior.
Be Clear in Communication
Communication is everything. Even when you aren’t saying anything, you are communicating. When working with someone who is challenging, be clear in what’s communicated. Remember, communication works two ways. The deliverer and recipient of the communication needs to make sure there is understanding.
You minimize room for error when you are clear in your communication. It also helps with accountability. For example, if you aren’t clear on what your client is asking, then do whatever is necessary to gain understanding. Be sure to hold the client accountable to sharing exactly what it is they are wanting to avoid confusion and or wasted resources.
Clients that aren’t a fit for your business usually ends up using more company resources than planned. Yet, this is something you can control. Don’t allow one client to ruin the experience that another has with your business.
Always have a sound mind and be reasonable when discussing expectations of a project with this type of client. Doing so will help to ensure mutual respect. Being logical will control the emotions in the work when stress arises. Regardless of how difficult a client is, it’s still your responsibility as a business owner to ensure customer service is at its best.
You can usually identify a client who isn’t a fit for your organization at the beginning of the relationship. Be consistent in your decisions, communication, and responses when working with a difficult client. This will help establish boundaries.
How have you dealt with difficult clients?