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Client handling skills, especially for dealing with difficult clients can be learnt, even if you don’t have then “naturally”.
By Shweta L Khare
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The first to eliminating any problem is to carefully examine the reason for the client to be dissatisfied or abusive. The answer lies in an in-depth evaluation. This is the question you must work on first:
Q. In which situations is the client difficult to work with, abusive or complaining?
A. Your first step must be to verify and clarify expectations; are the expectations met from both sides? Have you done what the client expected you to? At times, miscommunication or lack of communication is the root of such problems. Take time to identify the main cause first. You might begin this process by requesting a face-to-face meeting; below are some tips on how to go about it.
All along your career, whether self-employed or working for someone else, always and always document your work/ achievements/client requirements. Keeping up to date on this process makes evaluation and the solution process simpler and effective. Here’s what you can do in dealing with a difficult client, before you initiate a discussion to understand the reason for discontent:
– Document action items with status and responsible parties working on the project
– Figure out the time and days when the client is least stressed for a meetingBe ready with a list of direct questions that can help accelerate toward a solution rather than delving more into the problem
– Prepare a plan that you will stand by; there could be negotiations, name calling or bad mouthing in this meeting (depending how offensive your client is!) but being prepared is the best strategy. You must exercise assertiveness and a calm disposition even if you expect a volatile situation.
Once ready for a meeting, implement these tips:
– Be an effective listener; you do not learn much when you are talking, so let the client talk first. Try to understand his/her point of view before pitching in.
– There might be some other product or services which might better suit your client’s need. Present these ideas and see if this could be one of the areas which were never explored before and might well be the reason for dissatisfaction in the first place because the client was fitting the wrong peg in the wrong hole.
– Be open to feedback but don’t cower down to any request. You have all right to refuse irrelevant requests. Here, your persuasion and negotiations skills are used best.
– Communicating effectively will help you get to the root of the problem and then identifying a mutually agreeable solution becomes easier
– Work toward conflict resolution – not who is to blame and why
– It is important to deal calmly with aggressive behavior; observe restraint and tact during the discussion
– Brainstorm on what can make the deal/project a mutually satisfying experience
In general, you will know the final outcome of how to go forward through the meeting/discussion you have with this person. It is now time to evaluate and make a final decision on:
– The reasons for the obnoxious behavior of this person, can they be changed
– How future interactions can be made tactful and courteous; propose a process
– What changes you can make to satisfy your client or
– Just call off the project if it seems impossible to carry forth – do this on mutually agreeable terms.
See below why it is a good idea in some cases to just say no to working with difficult people; it’s just not worth making your life miserable if the situation cannot be improved. However, follow an objective process to see if the shortfall was from your side before giving up.
Also note that in many situations there are people whom you would rather not deal with. If you have the authority to choose, It is best to be firm and selective in accepting clients. It might initially affect your income stream but in the long-run it is always better to work with peace of mind and satisfy the customer base you feel happy working with. Eventually you will find out that working with difficult people consumes more energy and time and it is not worth wasting your expertise on such a person or group. And don’t let this situation stress you to hell – remember it’s not personal it’s just business.
Share your suggestions or past experience on how you have dealt with difficult people by commenting below.
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