How to handle difficult clients


I’ve written a lot about managing demanding clients: finding the right balance between the benefits of successful collaboration and maintaining a sense of privacy and personal space. I also wrote about building an effective business relationship.

Handling demanding clients can be a full-time job. If you’re not careful, this client can take up all of your time. Good or bad clients can rob time from other clients if you don’t manage the relationship properly.

Handling demanding clients can be challenging. There are measures to take so the client doesn’t become a problem. One easy and simple thing is to set clear expectations early in the process. I receive success using the following approach. You can set clear expectations with your clients by asking them to do a before and after survey of their behaviors and then use that data to help you create and improve their process. Does this focus attention on data and clear objectionable outcomes? Looking at the data can keep people honest. You may want to give this a try.

Fire difficult clients

It may not be enough after you exhaust all possibilities to mend the relationship. The only solution may be to move on to another client. You get to invest time working with non-problematic clients when you do this. Also, a competitor picks up the irrational client. That is a win for you. Your competitor has to deal with that nightmare.

If you’re mindful and focused on specifics and speak your client’s language, you may rarely have to cut a customer loose. Never be afraid to do what’s right for you and your customer.

How To Deal With Difficult Clients Instead of Firing Them

How To Deal With Difficult Clients Instead of Firing Them

What if you can’t bring your heart to firing a client? How do you resolve this problem? Maybe this is your first client. Initially, when you started your business, this client was in the trenches for you. They helped you shape your products and strategy. As you grew as a company, they did not. They require the same amount of attention on day one as they do on day 1,000.

One approach to not firing your client is to remain objective. You can take time to review your relationship with them and realize that the client isn’t so bad. The video in the section dives into this strategy. Instead of summarizing the key points, I encourage you to watch the video to understand how to tackle this problem.

Acknowledge versus Agree

Agreeing with a client may add fuel to the fire. Be mindful of this. When you agree with the opposite party can think they’re right and want some restitution from your agreement. Reimbursements may include free work or a reduction in price for future work.

If you acknowledge their position and shift the conversation to the resolution, you and the client focus on solving the problem. Refocusing on the issue may move away from the ranting and toward a solution for their complaint. You and the client need to move forward. Ranting about the problem will never make it go away.

What are other tips for dealing with clients?

A client doesn’t become difficult overnight. As your business grows, you will likely spend less time with each client individually. You’re focused on grow of your business. When you look at the number of customers you have, this is an important metric, but it may not be the best metric to look at for the right kind of growth your business needs.

Instead of looking at the total number of customers you have, what other metrics can you look at? What about how many customers do you have that actively contribute to your products and services? When you reframe your business in this light, you’re approaching your business through a growth mindset. Please check out that post for more insight.