Why are they being a jerk to you?
Whether it’s fair or not, difficult customers are only difficult to you because they’re unhappy with the product or service you’ve provided them. Although there’s always going to be the odd person who’s unhappy no matter what you do, we’ve put together a couple of strategies to help you deal with those
Although there’s always going to be the odd unreasonable person who’s unhappy no matter what you do, we’ve put together a couple of strategies to help you deal with those clients who make you tense up as soon as you hear they’re on the other end of the phone.
Ask them why they’re unhappy.
“I’m not getting results…” isn’t a good enough answer.
Dig a little deeper and ask for measurable, specific reasons. Also, ask them what results they would have been happy with. Now you’ve got something to aim for next time around.
Even your client’s answers show wildly unrealistic expectations, this is still a great opportunity to use comparable cases to show them why.
Use your words and be solutions-driven.
Careful vocab choice can help steer your clients from dumping their unhappiness on you, to working towards a mutually agreeable solution. Be assertive and clear in your conversations with a difficult client, but don’t reciprocate their anger. Some of our favourites:
Acknowledge & repeat their key concerns back to them, so you can be sure you’re both on the same page.
Preface statements with “As I’m sure you can appreciate…” to soften the blow when you need to disagree with your client.
Use solution-focused dialogue. “If this were to change next time, would you be satisfied?”
Always work towards giving your clients the confidence that you’ve actually solved their problems and that you aren’t just all talk.
Don’t say: “We won’t deliver late again.”
Do say: “We’ve now updated our supply chain which has reduced our turnaround time by half, I’m confident this will solve any issues with late delivery going forward.”
Keep it in writing, keep them updated.
A lot of unhappy clients are made more unhappy when they feel like they’re in the dark about their own project. Even though you’re dealing with a bunch of different people, they’re only dealing with you, and it’s sometimes hard for them to remember they’re not the centre of your universe.
Clearly document everything you agree on and complete for your with your clients, and keep them updated moving forward. Haven’t got any news for them right now, but it’s been a while since you last chatted? Drop them a quick email.
For example: “Nothing new to report right now, we’re still waiting on that fabric shipment, but still comfortably within our projected timelines. Will update you once it all arrives and we get started.”
A literal 20-second time investment might have just saved you a stressed phone call from your client two days from now.
If all else fails, boot ‘em and don’t feel bad about it.
Of course it sucks a little losing some of your revenue, but if your one difficult client is taking up the same amount of your time as 5 of your other clients, it’s time to tell them to hit the road (politely and professionally) and use all that free time to score less painful folk to deal with (or give your deserving clients even better service than you can right now).