Small Business Tip: Dealing with Difficult Clients

There will come a time when you will have to deal with a difficult client or customer.  The ability to work with these difficult folks can make or break the success of your company.  Learning how to deal with these clients is a specialized skill that every entrepreneur must ultimately master.

Here are some strategies for working with those tough customers:

Taking the Time to Understand Their Needs.  Oftentimes a difficult client relationship arises from miscommunication.  You both are working towards the same outcome, but are essentially on different pages.  If you primarily communicate via email, it’s time for a conversation to get back on track.  If phone calls aren’t working, it’s time for a face-to-face meeting (if possible) to talk things through.  Ask questions and get to the root of the problem so you can work out your differences.  Taking a little time to understand what the client needs from you will save you countless hours of re-work and frustration and can ultimately lead to a long-term relationship for both of you.

Setting Limits.  There are some folks who need to have limits set for them.  Without specific limits, they can suck away hours of your productivity with a never-ending stream of requests and leave you spinning your wheels.  This may mean that you ask that change requests be sent in a single email rather than a flurry of small notes or that phone calls be made during a specific period of office hours.  Often the clients who need to have limits set are just excited or nervous about their businesses and just need to be reassured that you will make sure everything is done to their specifications.  Just reassure them and set up a process that works for both of you going forward.

Walking Away.  You can’t please everybody all of the time.  There are some clients that you will never be able to please no matter how hard you try.  If you have put in time and effort to make the relationship work and it’s still not going anywhere, it may be time to cut your losses. If you do decided that the time and stress needed to work things out just aren’t worth the effort, make sure you keep it professional and take the high road when you end the relationship.

About the author:    The Business Girl is Terri Sullivan Biehn.  I have been a professional business writer and management consultant for more than fifteen years.  As a management consultant, I work with entrepreneurs to develop business plans and other documents.  Through my consulting practice, I coach entrepreneurs and small business owners on their general start-up, marketing, financial, operational and management issues.