Let’s be honest here – we all get demanding clients from time to time, and especially in the world of Weddings! Bridezillas, Groomzillas, Mother-of-the-bridezillas… the list goes on. I’ve had my fair share of difficult clients over the years from couples, to bridesmaids, to event planners and everyone in between. So here are my top tips for managing difficult clients (and possibly difficult colleagues as well)…
Above all, look after yourself!
When you are angry you cannot make objective decisions. Same goes for being hungry, tired, cold or just generally miserable. You need to take care of yourself. That might mean that someone else deals with a client from time-to-time, it may even mean turning down business or it may simply mean taking a step back from the situation to objectively review it. Just remember, if you are finding it affecting your health and well-being, it’s probably not worth it.
If the customer if difficult at the start, they’re likely to be difficult through the process.
We are in the business of long relationships – the average amount of time for an engagement is 18 months – do you really want to deal with the hassle? Learning to walk away is just as important as taking the business sometimes.
Your contract should be clear, but you should also outline important points. If you find that couples are pushing on particular areas regularly make sure this is clearly defined in your T’s and C’s – add it in for individuals if necessary!
Know how to say “no” well.
There are lots of ways to say the word “no” but negative language can hurt a relationship with a client and turn them from mildly frustrating to all out stress inducing nightmares(!). So, learning to say “no” well can help manage this. Try these phrases on for size:
Redirection: What we can do is…
Alternatives: I can offer you this instead…
Explanation: The reason I don’t offer this is because…
Be up front about your T’s and C’s from the start. If you can’t offer something that you know they want, make sure you tell them up front and outline it for them. Don’t get tripped up down the line with unreasonable requests simply because you didn’t handle it at the beginning.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep or don’t have control over.
This speaks for itself but, seriously, don’t promise something you can’t deliver just to win the business – it won’t work and you’ll end up with bigger problems!
Your clients might be stressed, frustrated and tired. They are also dealing with something which is emotionally charged – a Wedding! So actively listen, acknowledge their issue and work with them to find a solution. Your most difficult clients might be your best review!
Even if they are hurling abuse at you, you need to remain calm, polite and in control. Remember though, if someone is abusive you do have the right to calmly state:
“I can see that you are frustrated, and I want to help you, however I am not prepared to tolerate being spoken to in that manner. If this continues I will end our conversation and we can revisit it when you are calmer.”
If they continue, end the conversation politely and follow up with an email calmly explaining why you ended the call/meeting. You could also consider a clause in your contract stating that abusive behaviour will not be tolerated and could lead to termination of contract – this means that, should this situation escalate, you have the right to end the contract returning any monies as outlined and appropriate.
Where possible, end on a good note.
Hopefully you can resolve any issues with your demanding clients as you go – however occasionally then end must come earlier than we want. But, even if you do have to go your separate ways, remember to be the “bigger person” and wish them well – it costs nothing to be polite (and having the satisfaction of knowing you did not react badly feels pretty good in the end!)
Dealing with difficult clients is never easy but, remember, handled appropriately, your “difficult clients” can become your “best clients”! It’s all about how you manage their experience and how you maintain a positive relationship.
What difficult clients have you had? What top tips do you have for dealing with demanding customers?