Difficult clients or should I say “clients from hell”
It’s been a while since we were talking about issues in connection with being a service provider. If memory serves, the last related post was about complaints. The main reason of that lies in the source of the articles. This section based on our ongoing and constantly growing experience, and I happy to report that we haven’t faced notable difficulties…until recently.
Everyone whose daily job includes interaction with others knows that, sometimes, despite your best efforts, you just cannot see eye to eye with certain people. Apart from having some stress relief method for yourself (squash makes wonders to me), it’s important to be able recognize the types of problematic clients and have a more or less effective way to handle them. And I don’t talk about a mob hit here, I mean to deal with them in a constructive, diplomatic way.
Personally, I have come across four major types of clients giving me hell. But it’s only up until today, and I am still young.
When you start receiving emails from your clients giving you tips how the project can be implemented better or at all, it’s time to get worried. You are now dealing with Mr. (or Mrs.) Know-it-alls. Brace yourself, because after suggestion, comes unsolicited advice. Apparently, your client has just spent 30 minutes googling the issue and now s/he is an unquestionable expert of your field. Regardless what you say, s/he knows it better. Did I say better? I meant, s/he knows the best.
Don’t shoot the messenger, but I have a bad news. Usually, there is no talking to Mr. Know-it-alls. Clients of this type will never trust your expertise and knowledge, hence the only thing you can do is to play along. Yes, it is an utter waste of time, not mentioning the fact that how terribly annoying being constantly questioned by a layman, but I haven’t found any other ways to ease the situation.
If you start arguing with these clients, aligning facts, it will just encourage them to dig deeper and send you more and more quotes from forums (such reliable sources, right?). After a couple of email exchanges, the tone becomes offensive, and they start openly questioning your competence. So, do not engage! Even if you feel angry and personally offended, still maintain your professionalism. Cut the ties as soon as possible, making sure you hold up to your end of the deal, but do not indulge them a second further.
You are hired to do a job and, as usual, doing your best. On this competitive market, there is no other way to operate anyway. However, your best doesn’t seem to be enough for them. Ever. Simply because you weren’t told what to deliver. Hence, by the time you are done implementing the first idea, the whole concept has changed, you just didn’t get the memo. They always see something new, something cool which would fit much better into the concept (which has changed 3-4 times already). Their expectations are never written and rarely clarified, because they don’t even know themselves what they want.
Dangerous species, I must say, because they have the lethal poison for ruining your professional self-esteem. The real challenge of working with such clients, besides preserving your sanity, is to complete the project. Not easy, I can tell you that.
I found to be a successful way to deal with them by referring back to the signed contract. Cite full paragraph, if necessary, letter by letter in order to keep the ever changing expectations and wishes under control and the project on track.
Spotting these clients is a piece of cake, dealing with them, now that’s a whole different story. First of all, how to recognize them. They emphasize right at the very beginning of the project that it’s extremely urgent and actually it’s a life or death situation to get the job done immediately. Of course, they are more than happy to pay a rush fee to make sure it happens. So far, so good.
But, they are in haste only when it comes to see the result. You wait for them days after days to sign the contract, pay you or send feedback on the outcomes, so you can progress with the work. And when you finally receive answers, they just cannot stress enough how pressing the deadline is. Seriously?
My motto in these cases is: keep your boundaries and don’t let them push you around. Don’t forget, it takes two to tango. If the project truly is so urgent, then they should find the time to answer your notes and of course to send your fee in time.
Now, this group requires a significant amount of patience. If you remotely resemble Mother Teresa, you will handle them without a glitch. For anyone else, it will be a rough ride. Such clients come to you with a great selection of design elements wanting them to be incorporated into their dream product. They passionately insist on the results they imagined accepting almost no modifications.
Unfortunately, the design elements, they send you, are cut out from someone else’s website and sent you as images. Without considering the technical difficulties here (a cropped picture is not a feasible design element), they don’t seem to grasp the idea of copyright.
The approach has worked for me is to slowly convince them to change their mind by offering a lot of alternatives in the same style. Yes, it is time consuming and generates a significant amount of extra work. If this is too much for you or they are not only annoying, but cheap as well, then try to avoid them.
The ultimate goal of business is to make your clients satisfied. But not at all cost. You shouldn’t sacrifice your spare time, your integrity or your credibility during the process. I know for sure that there are certain demeanor, I should and I will not put up with.
There is the old saying: ”The customer is always right”. Does he really?
Any other type I should be ready for? Leave your suggestion in the comment section below.