Regardless of what kind of clients your business has, providing an excellent client experience is paramount. It's what differentiates your business and is part of your competitive advantage. Dealing with difficult clients is never easy, but they will inevitably crop up at some point and it's important know how to deal with them in a professional way, so that in the end, you can turn a negative experience into a positive one. How do you handle a client who is dissatisfied, angry, impatient, intimidating, demanding or frustrated? Here are our top tips.
Tip 1: Keep your cool
It seems obvious, but if you let your own frustration show it will only make the situation worse. When someone is coming at you and pushing all your buttons, sometimes it's easier said than done. What's important to remember is that while you can't control anyone else's behaviour, you are master of your own. You aren't going to resolve the situation if you lose control over your emotions.
2. Let the customer vent
Giving your client the opportunity and space to get out their frustration is often all they need. At the very least, it can be the first step in resolving the situation. If the confrontation is taking place face-to-face, maintaining eye contact and showing attentiveness by standing up straight while they’re talking with you shows that you're paying attention and actually taking in what they have to say. Be aware of your body language; e.g., don't cross your arms. By having your arms at your side rather than firmly folded across your chest shows you are open and approachable which will help soften the client’s demeanour.
Sometimes you may even find after they've expressed their feelings, they feel a sense of guilt that they may have offended you and can quite often end up apologising.
3. Resolving the situation
Put yourself in their shoes. Usually when there is an issue (particularly if it's making your life difficult), you want it resolved NOW. Try to spend as little time as possible focusing on the problem and find a way to quickly offer a solution. Sometimes this may mean bending your rules slightly in order to make things happen. But in the end it's your decision, and making an exception is often easy to do and within your authority.
If the customer is still resisting or you're still not clear on what the actual issue is, give them the opportunity to suggest what you can do to resolve the problem. Ask them to work with you to find a way to make it happen.
4. Go the extra mile
Even though you may be left feeling rather disgruntled after dealing with your difficult client, maintaining a high level of professionalism will have a major impact on how that client views, and talks about you and your business. You want to change their negative view into a positive one. Show that you've heard their problems by sending a follow up email summarising the next steps.
If you've promised to call, make sure you do, even if it’s only to report that you don't have the answer or an update yet. They’ll be reassured that you haven't forgotten about their problem and that you're actively trying to resolve it.
If you can offer a quick solution, do so immediately, even if it means dropping everything in your schedule for the next hour to make it happen. Exceeding their expectations ensures they are left feeling well looked after and valued. This will in turn increase their faith in you and your service so you can continue the relationship.
Try not to take it personally when you do come up against difficult clients. Instead, try seeing the situation as a challenge. If you can resolve their problem in such a way that they leave feeling delighted instead of disgruntled, you've won an advocate for your business. They'll tell their business colleagues and associates how well you were able to solve their problem and that not only will they be giving you repeat business, they'll recommend you to others. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful tools in the marketing kit, because people trust what existing clients say about a business more than traditional advertising.
Remember: remain professional at all times. This will earn you the client's respect even if the whole transaction isn't plain sailing.
If you're interested to learn more about how to become an expert in managing clients, download our latest eBook, Be the complete professional in your office.