Working in the special event industry, you have the privilege of encountering all sorts of interesting clientele. Sometimes this means you find a client who perfectly compliments your personality, is open to all of your ideas, and communicates their expectations clearly; other days, well, not so much. The fact of the matter is that taking on challenging clients is inevitable for all of us – but especially true when you work in a creative field.
Unfortunately, even if a client is being difficult your job remains just that – your job. There are two ways to move forward: Firstly, if you and your client decide that you are not suited to work together, you may decide to part ways. If this is the case, ensure that you have a clause in your contract that lays out your procedure for this and then offer to recommend someone else to assist them. Secondly, you can attempt to address whatever issue they may have and move forward accordingly. Either way, it’s important to avoid damaging your relationship beyond repair. As we’ve all seen online, Clients who are angry are usually a lot more vocal vs. Clients who are merely displeased.
If you choose to move forward with the relationship, here are a few ways to keep it pro and to avoid having your reputation tarnished in the process:
1. Listen and apologize: Unhappy clients often want to feel heard. While the issue may seem minor or even trivial to you, don’t forget that all of us tend to overreact when under stress. For example, the client’s event may be fast approaching or they’ve likely already invested tens of thousands – definitely a high stress situation. Listen to your client’s issues and apologize for any misunderstanding or miscommunication that has occurred, make sure you are professional, concise and accommodating.
2. Empathize: When you truly make the effort to understand why your client is upset or being difficult, it sets the tone for the rest of your interactions. Let them cool down and show a genuine interest in finding a solution that works for both of you.
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3. Let criticism roll off you shoulder: Let’s be honest, offensive comments from difficult clients hurt, even if they aren’t based on truth. Rather than try to defend yourself or prove them wrong, hit them with a dose of kindness and try to come to a solution together.
4. Collaborate on a solution: If you choose to move forward with the client, make sure that your lines of communication are crystal clear. Understand their expectations and make sure they understand your scope of work within the provided budget. It is always a good idea to have all communication done in writing so that you can reference it if things get sticky down the road.
Defusing difficult clients is an art form and the old adage that the customer is always right isn’t necessarily right. Making sure that you always take the high road is the number one rule of thumb to follow so that when and if they decide to bad mouth you, your integrity, reputation, and professionalism far overshadows the comments of one displeased client.