4 expert tips for dealing with bulky customers
When you are a solopreneur, you deal with a range of clients. Sometimes that’s what’s great about this type of job. Other times, not a lot.
At some point, everyone will meet this client. It’s the customer who is so difficult that they stress you out every time you have to answer their emails or phone calls. Maybe this client is keeping you awake at night and making you wonder if you are really in the right career. Well, don’t give up yet!
Before you let yourself waste all of your energy stressing about these annoying customers, remember that there are ways to deal with these people. While they might never become your favorite people to work with, you can at least have a pleasant and professional relationship with a few key tips in mind:
1. Be curious about complaints
When a customer complains frequently and makes your life more difficult, it’s very easy to get frustrated and think of them as just a cranky person. Maybe they woke up on the wrong side of the bed… All of them. Alone. Day.
But the truth is, sometimes you can learn from those customers who complain quickly. Customer feedback is incredibly valuable, and these customers give you feedback in high doses. Maybe they’re just bad at communicating it clearly and effectively – that’s why you need to be curious.
Think about the causes of your difficult customers’ anger. While they might not express their frustration to you in a professional manner, that doesn’t mean they don’t have any valid complaints. Try asking the customer questions to help them give more actionable feedback.
Learn more about what they feel is missing from your service. Even though these requests are unreasonable, sometimes the craziest ideas can inspire creative strategies to make your service better than all of your competition.
2. Clear communication is essential
You need to have strong communication skills in your toolbox when working with difficult clients. When you know how to communicate clearly, you will be able to explain your position confidently and you will be able to integrate comments – both negative and positive – without difficulty.
Dr Karyn Gordon, author of “The three chairs: how great leaders stimulate communication, performance and commitment” shot me in a recent email exchange: “People with high emotional intelligence give continuous feedback – formal and informal – and increase their ability to influence others with every interaction. They are also eager for feedback and are able to receive it with an attitude of humility rather than defensiveness.
Dr Gordon continued, “They have a thirst for self-improvement and they value the contribution of others. They try to create a safe environment for others so that issues can be discussed. They don’t shy away from conflict, but rather lean into it and focus on solving problems quickly, without blaming others or avoiding problems.
The first thing that is essential to communicate is the scope of your work. If a client complains that your services are not up to par, you can refer to your description of the scope of your work and explain that you did what you agreed to do.
You can also set goals with your client and give updates on the progress you’ve made towards the goals. It helps you have something concrete to refer to if your customer is unhappy.
If your client is continually unprofessional, despite your explanations of the scope of your work and the goals of a project, you can also set expectations for the client’s behavior. This keeps you professional, while setting boundaries to make sure you don’t have to work with people who are trying to take advantage of you.
3. Remember, it’s all about relationships
Sometimes you’re going to start off on the wrong foot with a client. Whatever the cause, building a good relationship with that client can help smooth things out. To do this, you need to find common ground. Relationships with customers work the same way as most other relationships. Ask questions about their family, hobbies, goals, or anything else the client likes to talk about.
Often times, clients will be more willing to talk about themselves if you show that you are willing to share things about your own life. Mention the sports game you watched the night before or are planning a camping trip over the weekend. Sometimes these things will get your customer talking. Just see what catches their interest.
As with any other type of relationship, sometimes you need to explicitly address a conflict before you can move forward and mend the customer relationship. Address the tension if it exists and ask if there is anything you can do to resolve the problem.
When you build genuine relationships with your customers, you are more likely to handle difficult conversations. Sometimes your most difficult customers can even become friends.
4. Don’t take it personally …
You can get curious, communicate effectively, and try to build a relationship, but sometimes there is nothing you can do to please a difficult customer. It can be a stressful part of doing business, but it’s important to remember that it’s only business.
When a customer can’t be happy, you just might not be meant to work together, and that’s okay. There are plenty of other potential customers. Don’t let the stress of a difficult person use up all of your energy.
Sometimes a difficult customer can try to make things personal. If someone is trying to criticize you personally, you know it’s time to cut your losses. Don’t waste your time with people who cannot live up to high standards of professionalism. Losing a difficult customer can open up your availability for other customers who are going to do things the right way, so if it’s time to let a customer go – although it usually happens the other way around – don’t be. not afraid to pull the trigger.