Tips For Dealing With Your Most Difficult Clients

dealing with difficult business clientsSome people you just can’t please. At least, that’s the truism my grandpa used to say to me. Clearly, grandpa didn’t run a small business. While some people are harder to make happy than others, as a CEO of a small business you can’t just write off difficult clients, unless of course you don’t mind taking a hit in your business.

But, after you’ve spent all day running your catering business, for example, cooking, responding to calls, and delivering orders, getting a complaint from someone because their food arrived at 5:03 instead of 5 isn’t going to make them your favorite person. If you take the time to understand a few important aspects of human interaction, however, you can turn that difficult client into a satisfied, lifetime customer.

Acknowledge Their Right To Be Upset

Simply acknowledging that your client has a right to be upset will make them less defensive and more open to a level-headed discussion. For example, perhaps a customer calls your auto-repair center claiming that you drastically overcharged them on their bill. You realize that they are just reading the bill wrong and don’t understand what the charges are for.

Begin the discussion with, “You’re right, Mr. Richards, that bill is pretty garbled and difficult to read. Let me see if I can break down the charges for you…” Mr. Richards will be taken off his guard and feel his anger diffusing into a willingness to actually discuss the issue.

Never Argue

Customers’ accusations can become scathing at times. Never give into the temptation, however, when one tries to lead you into an argument. Encourage the client to express specifically what is bothering them about the service you provided, and ignore any baseless or harmful slurs about you or your business. Giving into pointless negative banter will only decrease their satisfaction with your business.

Ask What You Can Do To Help

Often enough, it will be clear what your client hopes to get from you in order to dispel their dissatisfaction. Other times, their prattle will seem like pointless, rambling complaints. When this happens, you should take the opportunity to refocus the situation by asking, “What can I do to help improve this for you?” Simply being upfront and kind about the situation is enough to make most people come back down to earth and actually consider what more you could do for them, rather than continually ranting.

Don’t Give Up

Sometimes, no matter how much you try to appease a customer you’re not going to be able to get their loyalty back right away. Staying in touch over time and expressing your desire to earn back their business is a good idea for clients who are too disgruntled to hear what you have to say right now. Follow up in a week or two with a phone call or email, once again telling them how important their business is to you.

Go the Extra Mile

Some of my most positive customer service interactions have been with companies I was initially angry at for their poor service. Quickly and agreeably going a step beyond the means necessary to rectify a situation can leave your customers regaining their faith in the world and telling all their friends about your great company. If you’ve billed them wrong, right the situation, but also consider giving them a credit for some percentage of the mistake. You’ll earn back the money through word of mouth advertising anyway.

Joy PaleyJoy Paley is a guest blogger for Pounding the Pavement and a writer on call center management for Guide to Career Education.


2 Comments Tips For Dealing With Your Most Difficult Clients

  1. Jim Goodwin

    Valuable tips for every person who comes in contact with customers at any level.

    We have discovered that “going the extra mile” has been an essential ingredient in customer retention. It is a lot cheaper to retain customers than bring in new ones. Joy’s valuable advice provides the tools, if you invest the effort, you can expect amazing results.

  2. Jim Poor

    Great tips if you’ve gone and messed something up (or the client thinks you have), however, there DOES come a time when the right answer is simply “I’m sorry, I can’t help you.”

    A certain type of client will end up costing you more in the long run if you don’t just cut your losses.

    The hard part, is discerning who falls into which category.


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