Dealing with a difficult customer can be a challenging and frustrating problem and there is a very fine line between being firm, forthright and being rude to your client or appearing to be dismissive of their views. If you have been in and around business long enough you will have met a few awkward customers along the way and it will often have felt like you are banging your head against a brick wall.
My business is entered around giving clients business and marketing advice and I have a team of highly experienced and talented people around me to ensure that our clients benefit from a diverse range of skills, experience and opinion. We are not a cheap option for a business to engage with but we are very good at what we do and only ask our clients to pay if they are satisfied.
That said, it is of constant annoyance to me that I have clients who use our services only to then find a reason to disagree with every piece of advice we offer, to table a "better" marketing solution than our recommendation or to rewrite the copy of a press release we have sent for their approval. We are an open-minded business and love it when a client gets heavily involved with our work but there is no point in us working with a client who believes they can do the job better than we can and if they feel that then they really should never have engaged us in the first place!
The other annoyance is from clients who make repeated promises about what they will do for us to assist us to deliver on their brief but consistently fails to deliver anything. Typically they will not reply to calls or emails as they are too busy and then, when our project finally hits their radar they complain at the lack of progress - these clients are possibly the most difficult to deal with as they simply cannot ever see any fault in their own actions and look to appoint blame anywhere but with them.
There are some members of my team that will do anything to keep a client happy and will always be completely respectful of the client regardless of of how deserving the client is of that respect. I have a different opinion to most of my team - that no client will be allowed to continue to use our services if they are a pain in the ***!
To me, it is simply not worth the hassle. Clients like this bring the morale of my team down, they take up a vast amount of time to keep vaguely happy and are never complimentary or remotely happy with anything we do. They will not pay their bills on time and when they finally pay they will look for discounts or reasons to reduce the amount billed. For me these are the clients that I will happily walk away from.
It is with this approach that I can focus on the clients that want to get the very best from my team, that want to engage and that take an open-minded approach to new ideas and concepts. We are not always right, we will sometimes misunderstand a brief and a client will need to tell us our work is not in keeping with their expectations - and this is absolutely fine, in fact it is refreshing when it is communicated constructively and positively.
My team are positive, creative and passionate people and I have observed with interest how their talents become eroded when clients become unnecessarily difficult or obstructive and because of human nature that negativity can be carried into the work of other clients and that is what I simply cannot allow to occur.
So to all clients out there; be nice, be constructive and play fair because if you do then you will get the very best from my team, you will get their passion, their energy and they will share your pride when our work impacts on your bottom line and if you can't play nice or play fair then you will very soon be playing on your own!!