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August 20, 2014
A 3-Step Strategy for Dealing with Difficult Clients
 
In the world of business, working with clients can be quite the challenge. They can get angry, loud, and difficult — sometimes reasonably so, sometimes not. Regardless of why they’re being testy, appropriately dealing with these people, their emotions, and the problems at hand can make the difference between doing future business and losing a client forever.

That’s why being able to handle yourself and the client’s issue, all while making him or her happy and satisfied, is a very desirable skill that employers look for in their candidates. Here’s how to do it:

1. Listen to the client's problem.
Your client might come at you screaming, or may nag you quietly but persistently over time. There are many ways in which a client can be annoying, but there is one thing that will make all clients happier: being listened to. The importance of listening is immense in business; it’s arguably the most important skill of all. So when your client is presenting his problem to you, allow him to speak freely without interrupting.

Try your best to understand where your client is coming from. This can be tough, as your clients can be completely different from you, leaving you both with very diverging perspectives. Some come from foreign countries, some deal with conflict aggressively, some are dealing with personal loss, and some may even be facing roadblocks. Despite any differences that may exist, do your best to hear the problem with open ears, and always handle the client respectfully.

2. Show the client you're working toward a solution.
Once you’ve absorbed the client’s side of things, make sure to be communicative moving forward. Take steps toward a solution, and keep said client informed along the way. Collect their feedback and continue to keep them satisfied. Remember, the way you handle this problem can determine the future of your business relationship with this client and/or his company.

If your company failed to deliver something on time, causing the initial trouble with this client, for example, let them know what you’re doing to get that delivery there as soon as possible. Yes, dealing with difficult clients may require extra or expedited work. Yes, it may be annoying to continuously deal with an angry patron. However, if your company messes something up, you need to be ready to make it right.

3. Follow up.
After you’ve put your solution to action, don’t forget to follow up. Communicate regarding the result: how everything going, how could it be better, etc. You want your client to feel as if you did everything in your power to fix whatever problem had to be fixed.

If during the follow-up period your client brings another issue to your attention, you should be ready to deal with that appropriately (listen, work toward a solution, and communicate through and through). If problems continue to arise with a particular client or company, you’ll need to determine whether or not their business is worth your time and energy (sometimes it’s not).

Sometimes just listening to the client’s problem will make things better. Often clients become aggravated when they feel neglected, and hearing their side will leave them satisfied. Other times, though, fixing a client’s issue can be drawn out and exhausting. Regardless, you can’t avoid difficult clients when working in business, so these tips are sure to be useful.

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Adrienne Erin is a freelance writer and designer based in Pennsylvania. She has been passionate about career development ever since her college years — all four of which she spent interning in her college’s career center. Now that she is her own boss, she shares the practical advice that she finds works in her own life. To see more of her work, visit her design blog.
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