Let’s face it, most of us dream about working at the perfect job where every client interaction is smooth. Unfortunately, that is not reality. Sometimes we do get that ideal client, but what about the needy client who can easily use up the same physical and emotional resources of 5 successful clients, and the only way to ensure you maintain your rationality and don’t eventually burn out is learning to live by a few key methods.
Over the years in order to deal with these scenarios, I have adopted the ‘Gaviscon Strategy’! I know you must be laughing, as you may know Gaviscon is a substance which neutralises stomach acidity and is used to relieve heartburn, indigestion or an upset stomach. However, it is a light hearted visualisation, which enables me, once I feel a burning negative energy begin to build that I should step back for a moment, breathe then smother the imaginary flames.
So, how to deal with difficult clients?
When you’re upset, has someone saying, “I understand,” ever made you feel better? I didn’t think so. Instead, practice reflective listening. This approach requires you to understand what the other person is saying by understanding their words and their body language. Then, respond by reflecting the thoughts and feelings you heard back to your client:
Client: “I’m unsatisfied because we have a big event and you’re unwilling to offer to work overtime on this one.”
Client Manager: “So, what I’m hearing is that I’m not offering an over time that meets your needs. Is that correct?”
Never promise you’ll fix the situation — because you might not be able to. Your goal in this moment is to make your customer feel heard and valued.
Another issue we face is Fear. Fear of a negative outcome drives many of our responses. Usually, fear makes us want to control things. If a client is being difficult, we’re afraid to challenge them because we might risk the relationship.
First, when sitting down with a difficult client, your job is to listen, understand, and determine next steps – you don’t need to fix anything – neither to immediately produce a solution.
So, instead of apologising say, “I’m aware how this is affecting your business, and I appreciate your understanding as I work to resolve this issue.”
When we encounter a difficult client, it is often due to a defined idea of what they expected you to do, without ever communicating those expectations to you. Hence, when you we face a problem of undeliverable tasks which were expected but not communicated to you, we have to break the problem into several smaller manageable portions. These small portions are easier for us to tackle, and make us more willing to begin dealing with the issue at hand. Simply seeing each task chunked can make it easier for your client to digest what’s left to do.
One of other natural reactions is Anger. When dealing with an angry client, remain calm, listen and repeat back what they said. Once they’ve done, thank them for sharing their frustration, and clarify you’ll get back to them with a solution.
Remember; take your client’s anger seriously, but not personally. Also, people will often mirror the emotional signals you release. If you respond with anger, don’t expect friendliness and understanding in return.
In conclusion, to know how to handle difficult people is to truly master the art of communication. As you utilise these skills, you may experience less grief, greater confidence, better relationships, and higher communication prowess. You are on your way to leadership success!