Have you ever dealt with a client that was extremely frustrating? Maybe the circumstances caused you to slam your face into your hands and refuse to deal with the public for a period of time.
If you are on the front lines of managing or operating your business, you will, at some point, deal with difficult clientele. This can be an extraordinarily rewarding opportunity for both you and your client, or it can be one of those moments where you wonder, “Why did I get into this?”
Listen, most of us, at some point or another, have been “that” client ourselves. Go ahead and admit it, somewhere along the way you made someone question their own sanity for choosing their respective occupation. This caused me to think: What are some ways we can more effectively deal with negative or difficult clientele? Here are a few substantial points to remember when dealing with difficult clients:
1.) Communicate Clearly: When we encounter a difficult client, it is often due to a preconceived idea of what they expected you to do, without ever communicating those expectations to you. For some reason when you become a small-business owner or find your way into management everyone thinks you can suddenly read minds!
Actionable Tip: Research and learn from the best communicators in your industry.
2.) Make it Right: Sometimes our actions are the cause of the existing difficult client. If you mess something up, make it right. Don’t pretend it does not exist and ignore it. Ignoring conflict will not make it go away.
Actionable Tip: Guarantees are worthless if we don’t stand behind them. If you don’t offer a guarantee, consider offering one and make your errors right…you’ll be glad you did.
3.) Be Fair, but Firm: Stand your ground, if you did your part and fulfilled your end of the deal. This is not giving you a license to be a jerk, I am saying if you did your part and the client is being unfair or unreasonable, stand your ground and be firm!
Actionable Tip: There may be times to give in, but if you clearly have a client trying to take advantage of your kindness, stand firm, but only if you know you did the right thing. Offer easy remedies. Remember: Not all people want to be made happy.
4.) Remain Professional: Don’t take the anger bait! If you encounter a difficult client who begins the conversation with colorful language, demeaning remarks, and personal attacks, remain professional. Don’t begin to reflect their communication style because it will simply lead to additional conflict in your business relationship.
Actionable Tip: This is easy. Don’t mirror their words and communication styles. Take a breath, walk away, and give yourself time to cool down.
5.) Negotiate the Win: For a conflicting business relationship to experience a positive remedy, there must be a win for both parties. When negotiating with your client, provide breathing room in the points of interest. Remember, if it goes bad, it reflects on you, because your client will tell everyone.
Actionable Tip: Find relevant training on negotiating in your profession. The basics of negotiations are the same, but there may be specific keys to success in your industry.
It really doesn’t matter what line of work you are in, at some point, there will be a business relationship in conflict, a difficult client, or some type of negative situation involving a client. If your number one goal is making money, you may be tempted to write them off and move on. If your goal is relationships before revenue, these situations may be an opportunity to develop a strong, long-term, positive business relationship.
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