Whatever industry your business is in, you likely have a few customers that are especially demanding. Whether they have particular needs or scrutinize the work they are paying for, practice these four strategies to help build a smoother relationship with such clients.
Write down expectations
One of the best ways to manage challenging clients is to outline expectations in writing, as Entrepreneur contributor John Boitnott recommends. For service-based work, this usually comes in the form of a Statement of Work, which outlines exactly what your business will do, the timeframe of the project or service and the total cost. A contract is another useful measure when it comes to maintaining boundaries with difficult clients, since you’ll have a signed document agreeing to the project’s scope, timeframe and price.
Refer back to the Statement of Work and/or contract whenever a client tries to expand the breadth of a project or demands more hours of service not specified in the original agreement.
Provide timely updates
Difficult clients can barrage your email inbox or voicemail with a deluge of questions and concerns about the project. Not only does this amount of contact disrupt your workflow, but it can also waste significant time that you could’ve spent making headway on the actual project. PR Couture contributor Danika Daly advises to provide regular updates to keep clients in the loop while eliminating unnecessary calls and emails. This can be in the form of a scheduled weekly phone call or email update.
You can even provide customers a simple Excel spreadsheet with a list of tasks, their statuses and completion deadlines, as Creative Boom contributor Katy Cowan suggests. That way, your client has the updates they need to feel secure while you build a reputation of integrity. They’ll also appreciate your pro-active business ethic by providing them the information they crave before they ask you for it.
Build respect for your time
As Cowan advises, establish your work hours and communicate them clearly to your client from the early stages of the project. List your work hours on your website and include it in email signatures, which will help remind clients of your professional availability.
If a client contacts you outside of your set work hours, don’t respond. Instead, wait until your next scheduled work hour begins to get back with them. As Robin Maxfield with mindset Communication stated via Forbes, “Don’t feed the need.” Simply put, wait before responding right away to voicemails, emails and texts from needy customers. If you respect your time, then so will your clients.
Reassure rather than defend
As tempting as it can be to become defensive against difficult clients, it’s in your best interest to pursue a more positive approach. Remember: challenging clients are often motivated by insecurity rather than an explicit desire to complicate the project and your life. As Tina Forsyth, author of “The Entrepreneur’s Trap” and founder of the CEO Business School for Transformational Leaders, shared with Forbes, you must present a winning combination of results and reassurance. “Reassure them that you understand what they need and are taking care of it — and then deliver the results to prove it,” she explains.
By applying these effective principles, you can start forging stronger ties with challenging clients while retaining your sanity.