Whether you’re in business for yourself or work for a company you’re going to have to deal with your fair share of difficult clients.
For the longest time, I did what most of us do and that is to try to appease the client. I would put on my best diplomatic smile and “suck it up” all the while trying to find a satisfactory solution to their problem or anal request. For the most part this worked, but after awhile I started to lose patience with these individuals because they always seem to have a problem.
Honestly, most clients are reasonable and a joy to deal with, but every once in a while you come across an individual who is hell bent on making your life difficult. The truly weird thing is that this individual can magically appear without warning, typically as a result of a promotion or new hire. Overnight a great client becomes a difficult client.
The upside to these situations is that it gives you a moment to pause and do a reality check to ensure you haven’t become complacent, set in your ways or just taking the relationship for granted. But any entrepreneur worth their salt should be constantly reviewing their relationships for these problems anyways.
So you’ve got a difficult client, now what are you going to do? Believe it or not you have choices, not many but you do.
1. Suck it Up!
Suck it up, fix the problem and hope the individual moves on!
2. Look Inwards!
Seriously, look inward to ensure you haven’t dropped the ball and let your performance metrics or standards slip just because you have a comfortable relationship. The hardest part of this is actually trying to be objective. As business owners we’ve had to cloak ourselves in self confidence to protect us from rejection, but that can also blind us to our weaknesses. This could be a warning signal for all your clients. Sometimes the client has a point!
3. Transfer the Relationship!
Transfer the client relationship to someone else in the company. I had this happen, whereby a client appointed us a new contact and this person was out to gain political capital at my expense with her superiors. Up and until this point we had a wonderful 5 yr relationship with this multi-national. After 25 years of self employment, I didn’t take or more precisely, put up with challenges anymore. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, just a reality. Not wanting to destroy the relationship with the organization, I chose to let someone else in my company deal with the person. This was the perfect solution and business prospered.
4. Fire Them!
Fire the client. When nothing else works, fire the client. Not to sound righteous, but life is too short to deal with difficult clients. If after trying to solve their problems they’re still difficult, kindly tell them that you can no longer provide the service their looking for and call it day.
Difficult clients usually remain difficult and tend to consume far more of your or your staffs time than they’re worth. The cost is usually greater than the lost revenue from this one client as you’ll have less time to work with the rest of your great clients.
Try as we might, sometimes we just can’t get along with everyone!
Copyright © Greg Weatherdon 2012
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