Tips for Handling Difficult Clients

by Thom Tracy

2 min read

Independent contractors, like most business owners, face difficult clients from time to time. Effectively managing these clients can ensure your business retains their patronage and a positive reputation. Although there is no blueprint for managing conflict with clients, doing certain things can increase the chances for a successful outcome.

Create a Win-Win Outcome

Compromise with demanding clients to forge a win-win outcome. For example, if you are an independent builder, and a valued customer demands that you change to a previous timber supplier, you could offer a discount on frame construction. Clearly communicate why it was necessary for your business to change suppliers. Showing that you are prepared to compromise lets your loyal clients know their patronage is valued and you take their concerns seriously. Offer clients practical compromises by providing solutions to their problems. For example, if you are a freelance writer and can’t make a client’s unrealistic deadline, offer to produce additional articles for the client’s new blog if you can receive an extension.

Clear Communication

To avoid disagreements and misunderstandings at a later date with demanding clients, concisely communicate the services that your business is going to provide. Use written contracts for complex work, outlining the key terms and conditions. For example, if you are an independent accounting consultant, list the specific accounting services you offer in the client’s contract to reduce ambiguity. Before accepting work, listen to clients’ requests to ensure their expectations match the services your business provides. Don’t be afraid to say no to demanding clients; explain why your services are not the suitable for them. Honest feedback is often well-received.

Show Difficult Clients That You Respect and Value Them

Show difficult clients that you care by respecting them. Even if you disagree with clients, listen to their point of view; they may provide new insight that you hadn’t considered. Ask demanding clients for feedback about the service they received; incorporate their suggestions in your business offerings to show their opinions are respected. Provide difficult clients with your contact details and encourage them to contact you if they encounter any issues; customers who feel valued often become your business’s biggest supporters. Consider sending a thank-you note or small gift for helpful suggestions. Consider offering your other services free of charge for a period as a way of saying thank you; it may help generate new business.

Stay Calm

Always remain calm when a client is venting frustration. Raising your voice has the potential to enflame the situation and infuriate the client more. Staying calm and empathizing with the client typically helps soothe their anger. For example, if you are an architect and a client is angry about the delay of a design they require urgently, acknowledge how you can understand their frustration and calmly explain your reasons for the setback. Remember not to take criticism personally; the client is frustrated with the product or service that has failed to meet their expectations, not you.

References & Resources

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