Every other business has to deal with them: difficult clients. These are clients that you can’t seem to get through to because they’re so high strung, emotional and upset. Sometimes, you can’t get a word in edgewise, and even if you did, they will twist your words and hurl them back at you. Is there a way for you to win?
These moments can make anyone cringe and break out in ice-cold sweats but the joy lies in conquering the mountain and reaching the summit. The climb, trying to reason with them, is the toughest part. But the payoff is more than enough to make up for the uncomfortable confrontations. Here are 8 tips for how to deal with a difficult client.
1. Understand where they’re coming from
There’s a good chance that they reached the end of the rope because of something you or someone else in your team did or did not do. Remember, these clients came to you with an understanding that you will be able to provide them with what they need and give them the results that they expect. Falling short of that will frustrate and aggravate anyone. Be fair to your clients by acknowledging these shortcomings.
There’s no need to pass the blame or grapple for an excuse to hide behind. Sometimes, appreciating your client’s point is enough to direct you to a course of action that will lessen their agitation. That’s one of the ways of how to deal with a difficult client and lead you to a sound resolution.
It can be very difficult to try and think when you have another person scowling, yelling, and talking down on you. It’s important to stay focused on your goal: diffuse the situation and resolve the concern. You surely would not want to say anything that would add fuel to the fire so before you say anything or offer a rebuttal, stop yourself and take a deep breath so you can choose your words.
All it takes is the wrong word and you’ve got a triggered client that nothing can appease or de-escalate and you would not want that embarrassment. Remind yourself that they’re difficult because they want something that they’re not getting but they know it’s possible to get from you. How to deal with a difficult client can be to repeat their words to them to outline what they need and then direct their attention to what you can do to get what they need for them.
Dealing with difficult clients can be challenging enough without getting your emotions involved. Make it a point to remove yourself and your emotions from the situation even before you get started trying to deal with the client. It’s easier said than done but it’s the only way you can be able to resolve the issue and calm them down.
One way to do this is to remind yourself that their frustrations and disappointments have nothing to do with you as a person. It’s not about you. At the end of the day, regardless of how personal their attacks get, it’s all business so stay in that mindset. Use “we” instead of “I” to separate you as a person from the company you work for while including your team in the resolution. This will also help in reminding your client that they’re dealing with a business entity as opposed to just a person.
Keep in mind that empathy and apology are two different things but can both be effective in calming down or helping you manage a difficult client. There are many types of difficult clients but a lot, if not all, of them calm down as soon as you humble yourself and own up to the mistakes or failings that got them there. It might be difficult to empathize without sounding condescending or patronizing but all it takes is carefully thinking about what to say and formulating them in such a way that they’re delivered properly.
If you are indeed going to apologize, galvanize yourself to follow up with action that will answer their concerns and more than satisfy their disappointments. Say sorry, recap what happened, and then let them know what you will be doing to make the situation better and redeem your company’s reputation in their eyes. While you’re at it, keep your voice steady and your tone level. Speak slowly and carefully, keeping your tone gentle.
When you’re not happy about something or someone, sometimes all you need is time to lash out and rant about it to get over it and it helps a great deal knowing that someone is listening to you. It’s a form of release that applies even to personal matters and if you want to allow your client the time to cool down, you have to let them vent their frustrations first. Let them talk and show them that you’re actually listening and mentally working on how best to help them.
One of the strategies for working with difficult clients includes not doing anything except letting them talk and showing them that you’re listening to what they’re saying. Even if you already know what to do to placate them, just allow them to let it all out. There’s a chance they may be calmer afterwards, giving you a better chance at a conversation.
After you’ve given your client enough time to rant, steer them gently to the path of a solution. You’ve allowed them time to express their disappointment and now it’s your turn to let me know what you’re planning to do and what you can do to turn the experience around. Walk them through the steps; tell them what you need from them to complete the solution and all the follow-up steps if there are any.
Show your client that you are in control of the situation and that you’re focused on resolving their issues. Let them know what you plan to do and if you need to leave them for a while, inform them how long you’ll be away as well as the reason. After outlining the plan, be sure to work as quickly as you can to find the answer to their problems. Some types of difficult clients do not like having to wait around longer than necessary.
Making sure that everything that was discussed and done to help the client is documented is a great way of reminding your client what you did for them in black and white. If the interaction with the client is done via email or chat, always end the conversation with a recap of everything that transpired. This is also meant to clear up any confusion and to ensure that every problem has indeed been solved.
Documentations are also a form of insurance to avoid further complaints from the same client. Since it shows everything that was discussed and done to help, a complete documentation can also be a template for later use should you or another person in your team come across a difficult client. Include a copy in your knowledge base for how to deal with difficult clients.
When it comes to dealing with difficult clients, you cannot afford to be caught unaware or unprepared. You should have at least an idea of the possible issues and concerns that clients will most likely have with your product and/or service. From there you can make a plan for how to deal with a difficult client.
At the very least, you should at least have an action plan in place for common concerns that clients come to you with. Create an escalation hierarchy so your agents know who to go for help if they need some reinforcements. Make updates and improvements to your knowledge base regularly as well to keep the information fresh. It will also be helpful to the rest of your team if you can give them refresher training every now and then as well as courses on how to deal with a difficult client.
Dealing with difficult clients is part and parcel of the job, even if your business is not exactly customer facing. You can’t always have good times, after all. You can’t please everybody but you can do your best to be there for all the types of difficult clients to turn their experience around. If you want to be known as a successful business all around, you need to be able to deal with difficult clients properly.
As a business manager or owner, you need to be comfortable in dealing with difficult customers. It’s all about understanding the need to be heard, taking charge in order to provide your clients with a good experience, and for you as a business to deliver on your promises.