Have you created your difficult clients?

Many business owners/managers would probably scoff at this idea and say “of course not”. But as Business Consultant, Tamara Simon, points out, we do actually create rather than gain many of our difficult clients.


For many businesses, difficult clients are defined as those who

  • Don’t pay on time
  • Don’t pay at all
  • Change the brief/specification
  • Contact you on a very regular basis (email or phone)
  • Ask ‘silly’ questions
  • Aren’t organised
  • Want to or have to have everything explained to them (often on numerous occasions).
  • So now think about the clients you would deem as ‘difficult’ within your business?
  • Why do you classify them as difficult?
  • How many do you have?
  • How long have you had them?
  • Do you really know why they are unhappy or ‘difficult’?

Bill Gates once said “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning,” and yet many businesses choose to either defame or ignore them instead of finding out the real cause of their grumblings and use this information to improve their business.


So here’s some tips to turn your difficult clients into ambassadors for your business:


Tip 1: Ensure any communication is written with the client, rather than you, in mind.


Too often, businesses write in jargon and industry terminology rather than in language the client can quickly and easily understand.


Tip 2: Develop a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


FAQs, placed on your website and provided to new and existing clients, can not only minimise phonecalls and emails but help your clients (and you) understand their needs and provide you with more information on how you help and add value to them.


Tip 3: Develop a ‘so what happens now’ letter.


Many clients may have never undertake work like you offer before; and yet, we provide so much information about what will happen throughout the process verbally with little or no written documentation to back up the conversations. And we wonder why clients keep ringing and emailing with questions!


Tip 4: Provide progress updates.


Even with a ‘so what happens now’ letter, clients still need to be advised of where their job is at, particularly when they see with little or no action for a while because of work being done behind the scenes and other circumstances. It is really important to understand their job is their number one priority, even though it probably isn’t for you; so email or phone them to advise how the job is tracking in relation to the initially agreed completion dates.


Tip 5: Keep to your terms and conditions.


Many businesses have terms and conditions which clearly outline what will happen when the client doesn’t pay on time etc, and yet by continuing with the work and not enforcing these terms, you are educating your clients it is OK not to follow procedures (and that you are happy to work for FREE!).


Tip 6: Gain regular feedback during and upon completion of each job.


Not only is it essential to get feedback from individual/group consultations and feedback forms, but more importantly, it is the process you have to review and act upon the feedback as well as having an open mind to new ideas that will keep improving your business


Tip 7: Charge or not to charge….that is the question.


Too often, clients change the brief and yet a variation process is not enacted, meaning work is undertaken for free rather than making an informed decision about whether the client should be charged for this change or not. Consequently, clients start to believe that any change isn’t chargeable rather than being ‘educated’ about what changes do and do not constitute additional fees.


By implementing these tips, they will not only save you time and money, but they will help you build a more sustainable and profitable business.


And finally, in order to turn your ‘difficult’ clients into those who want to always refer you to

others, remember keep these two ideas at the forefront of your business.


“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It's our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” Jeff Bezos


“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.” Mahatma Gandhi


tamara_simonArticle courtesy of Tamara Simon, speaker/consultant with Take Another Look - www.takeanotherlook.com.au

Tamara Simon was a Queensland Finalist in the Telstra Business Women’s Awards. With extensive experience in over 10 industry sectors including building design, training, auditing and marketing, she is passionate about helping build profitable and sustainable service-based businesses.