I don’t really talk about it a lot, but I have a side business where I do social media and web design for small businesses. I really enjoy doing this and it is a stretch from my day job. I normally have great clients who are clear about they want and come prepared to our meetings. There are days where I assign tasks to some of them in an effort to guide them in the right direction. These tasks are meant to teach them about things that they haven’t thought about before.
Because I learned everything on my own it gives me the knowledge to help them minimize their learning curves. I teach them about things like virtual phone numbers, how to pick the right domain, where to register their business, what free accounting software is best, how to establish their presence offline.
Since of these clients are small start-ups, they appreciate the advice and are eager to implement it. I do want to note that I don’t do any of these tasks for them, but I make sure that I present throughout the process. This way they are fully aware of what happens, and therefore they can function by themselves if/when I am not there. I am big believer in the mantra of teaching a man to fish instead of giving him a fish.
Because I work extremely hard to make sure that my clients are satisfied, I have about an 80% referral rate. That’s right, almost all of my clients are friends or colleagues of other clients.
Once in a while I get a client who assumes that just because they are an acquaintance, I will do them a favor by not charging them or discounting my services heavily. Don’t get me wrong, I do what I can, but I still have a staff that I need to pay and they don’t like having their pay discounted. The same clients, when asked to pay normal prices, expect services above and beyond what I offer.
One of these clients recently had asked me to redesign her site 3 times. I agreed since she was a friend of a close friend and seem somewhat confused with she
wanted. Then she started asking for further customization, which doubled the amount of work my designers had to do. On top of this, she asked if my graphic designers could do all the graphic design work since her designer had quit.
One out of 50 clients ends up being difficult to work with, and I have finally learned to deal with them. Here are some tips that work for me:
1. Write up a proposal/contract. Make sure it is very detailed and get your client to sign it. This is to ensure that they understand that you are only offering the services agreed upon in the beginning. Emails are good way to keep records of conversations.
2. Set a fair price for adjustments. Sometimes things need to adjusted, and this will protect both of you in case of a dispute.
3. Listen to the clients. There are times where you just didn’t understand what they wanted or there was some sort of miscommunication. Listen and do your best to adjust the project according.
4. Apologize once, and offer to rectify any mistakes that you may have made. The more times you apologize, the more ammunition you are giving an angry client.
5. Build rapport. Saying things like “ I would be upset, too” or “I understand where you’re coming from” and offer solutions to the problem.
6. Offer compensation. This is one of the final steps and only to be used if you cannot diffuse the situation. Also, this should be used if, in fact, you or your team caused the error. Do not offer any type of compensation just to make an angry client go away.
7. Don’t react to passionate clients. Some times adults chose to act like children when they don’t get their way. Don’t further instigate their anger by reacting in the same manner.
8. Offer a refund and walk away. This is the best way of dealing with an angry client. Tell them that you would be happy to refund their funds and they can take their business elsewhere. This is certainly the last resort.
I have used #8 twice by essentially firing my clients, and let me tell you that it felt great. I am firm believer in the 80/20 rule where 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your sources and 80% of work goes to 20% of your clients. The clients who need extra resources rarely bring in referrals, but they do waste a lot time. By walking away from clients or businesses that require 80% of your attention, you have the ability to recruit clients who are easier to deal with, and are a better fit.
Have your ever had a client that you didn’t get along with? How did you deal with it?
SB’s thoughts: At my work I represent client for IT off-shoring companies. As a client what pleases me most is the accountability and on-time delivery. I really liked #7 above, don’t react to passionate clients. To handle a passionate client you got to be passionate with the job. Halfheartedness usually doesn’t work with them.