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Working with demanding clients can be a frustrating and disconcerting experience, especially for a small business with scarce resources. Here we run through the brilliant responses to UKBF members' most challenging client dilemmas.
Dealing with clients who require constant updates – even if it’s to confirm everything is still on the right track – can be exasperating. However, regardless of how interruptive or time-consuming you find the regular calls, your clients are in their right to check that their money has been well spent and you are on your way to achieving the result they expect. It’s easy to become frustrated, but there are ways you can streamline your approach and stop calls from feeling overwhelming.
“If you’re zoned out on a project,” Jay69 says, “be firm, polite and flexible: ask if you can call them back at a specific time.”
Rather than giving them the assumption that you’re always available to talk, they’ll be more likely to arrange a time to chat in future. When arranging a time to update your clients, preparing the call as you would a face-to-face meeting can keep it from veering off topic. As Nick Grogan recommends, agree on an agenda beforehand.
If you’re concerned about the financials of the time lost on client communication, Ashley_Price suggests building the additional contact time into your T&Cs. State that while you’re happy to send a daily update email as part of your service, any additional time spent on calls will be billed. “It may not stop controlling clients,” he says, “but at least you’ll be paid for the time.”
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that the client doesn’t own your time and, unless it’s scheduled in, you shouldn't be exclusively tied to any one person. As woodss puts it, the client isn’t paying you, they’re hiring you and there is a difference.
In August of last year, one member found himself exhausted with the constant demands of a client project. Months over schedule, the client had decided to implement a rebrand, unravelling all the work done so far and encroaching into the time of other paying customers. It was described as a weird, up-and-down working relationship that wasn’t healthy. How can small businesses react when faced with a chaotic client, and is there a way to avoid them in the first place?
The Byre warns of the hazards of ‘scope creep,’ defining it as the continuous and gratuitous expansion of a project for no real benefit. Scope creep, he says, can condemn a project to failure, through a lack of focus and the eventual runaway costs. To stop demanding clients from pushing your project into scope creep territory, he suggests having a ‘no changes’ clause written into the contract for any large projects.
This contract stage is vital when it comes to reigning in demanding clients, so it’s worth taking the time to cement what’s really expected of you. As one member discovered in this thread, what the client expects from you can be different from what you’re expecting to deliver, and ambiguous terminology can lead the client to claim a service that was never offered. For ethical PR, having clauses in a contract to cover delays to project schedules and substantial changes to the brief can help to simplify matters when the project’s scope starts to change.
Regardless of how frustrating it can be to have a client regularly change their mind and move the project’s goal posts, don’t let your personal feelings inflame the situation. As Nochexman says, telling a client you don’t want to work with them can complicate your working relationship further, and the important thing is to draw a line under what you finally agreed to do – even if it isn’t what you originally agreed to do.
“The guy tried to make me feel guilty about taking his money, which I took. He was so angry I genuinely thought he was going to hit me at one point.”
As lyonsdown found, encountering a client who is trying to avoid payment can be uncomfortable and intimidating. Make sure all potential clients are clear about your pricing before you carry out any work, and draw up a set of T&Cs that your client must sign before you do anything at all.
Try and avoid pages full of miniscule print in your T&Cs: profitxchange advises that you highlight what you consider critical, important and desirable instead. Including a list of the actions you may take if the “spirit and intent” of the T&Cs is not honoured will also give you some direction should the time come.
For clients you’re unsure of, columbo recommends testing out price points with them first on the phone. By mentioning a price point for, say, diagnostics, you’ll be able to gauge their reaction: if they need some time to think about it or seem shocked by the price, you might encounter issues later down the line. As he says, good customers don’t mind paying a reasonable price for a quality service.
Should you find yourself in a position where a client will not pay, make sure you evidence any communication with the client and have your solicitor send a letter before action to warn that legal proceedings are imminent. Lovetts Solicitors wrote a great article on the subject here.
Do you have any other tips for dealing with difficult clients? Let us know by commenting below!
Thank you for the helpful content too
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