This post was written by Leila Lewis of Be Inspired PR. As a business school graduate from Santa Clara University, Leila (Khalil) Lewis’ career began in publishing, where she worked in marketing and editorial roles for business and lifestyle publications. Since transitioning into the wedding business in 2004, Leila has over 10 years of wedding marketing experience under her belt, and is the industry’s go-to for wedding public relations services, brand development and business consulting.
When you have respectful and kind clients, working with them is not only easy, but fun! When you have a good, positive relationship with the people you work with, it makes you want to work hard for them. However, this isn’t true for every client relationship. Sometimes you receive unfriendly emails, rude calls, and impatient people who make it difficult or downright unpleasant to do your job.
If (or when) that happens, here are my four tips for dealing with difficult clients:
- Be kind. Working with difficult or high maintenance clients can be exhausting and can cause you to mirror their language and actions. With these clients, it’s especially important to fight fire with water. In times of disagreement or high tension, take the high road – make your clients feel valued and heard. Often times, that’s ultimately what they’re really looking for.
- Communicate often. I find when my clients don’t hear from me for a period of time (even though I’m still working hard for them!), it causes them anxiety and sometimes causes them to think, “Well what is she even doing for me?” Take a few extra minutes to send them an email with a quick update or put a more formal update process in place to send over recaps. Open communication ultimately builds trust.
- Be present. When you’re on a phone call or in a meeting with a client, be all there. Turn your phone on silent, only use your computer to take notes, and give them your undivided attention. Multitasking can come across as frazzled or un-invested, which only creates more tension.
- Resort to conflict resolution techniques when necessary. If you’re not seeing eye-to-eye on an issue, it’s best to address it immediately. Set up a call or a meeting to discuss it. Allow your client to share their frustrations and have a few ideas proposed on how you can fix the issue or meet in the middle.
Despite my tips, every now and then you may run into a client where it just isn’t working out. In those instances my advice is to not be afraid to sever the professional relationship. Weigh the pros and cons, costs and benefits – if continuing the relationship isn’t what is best for you personally or professionally, it’s time to bring things to an end. Keep things short and sweet – send an email or have a phone call explaining why it’s not working out. There’s no need to rehash what went wrong; just fall back on your contracts to settle any outstanding work and payments.
Take every experience with a difficult client as a learning experience. The more practice you have in dealing with them, the better you become at managing those relationships. Ultimately, what clients want, more than anything, is to feel valued. Use the techniques above and you’ll be able to deal with most difficult clients!