It happens to every business owner at some point in time and chances are, it’ll happen more than once. You have to cope with a difficult client. It can be an extremely frustrating and upsetting experience. It can also be a positive experience – really! Here’s how to take charge of the situation and cope with a difficult client.
Step One. Determine why your client is unhappy or what is causing them to be difficult. There are many reasons why a client can be difficult. Do they just rub you the wrong way or are they expecting more than you deliver? Are they unhappy with your product or service or are they unhappy with their life. Often, understanding the core issue will help you choose the best approach.
Step Two. Empathize and apologize. Regardless of what the core issue is, an apology and an empathetic approach will get you a lot further than being defensive or dismissive. “I’m sorry you feel that way,” said with sincerity is effective. Even if you don’t believe you’ve done anything wrong, a carefully worded apology and a bit of understanding can make all the difference. Sometimes people just want to know that someone cares.
Step Three. Offer a solution. In many cases a solution is possible. Do your best to offer a solution or a choice of solutions. If you give the difficult client a choice, they’ll feel like they have some power and may back down. If you’re unable to think of a possible solution to the situation, consider kindly and calming stating that you understand their position and repeat your position and ask them what they think would be a reasonable solution. You may be surprised by their answer.
Step Four. Be ready, and willing, to let go. Sometimes people are unable to be pleased. That’s okay. If you’ve done your best and accommodated the difficult client as much as you are willing to, then it may be time to let go. If you’re able to approach a situation without expectations or feeling as if you have something to prove, then letting go will be easier and less traumatic for you. If you do have to release the client and leave them dissatisfied, make the experience as positive as possible for them. Say something like, “I’m sorry we were unable to come to an agreement.”
Know that often times the most difficult clients can become your best allies and your most loyal customers. They’ll tell anyone and everyone about you and help grow your business. They can be a valuable learning experience because you’ll learn more about how to structure your policies and procedures to make sure experiences like this don’t happen again and you’ll learn more about yourself and your ability to handle conflict. There can be a silver lining when dealing with a difficult client.