This week I had to deal with a nightmare client. I’m talking Freddy Cougar Nightmare on Elm Street-type NIGHTMARE. A client that hired me for a quick WordPress website I said I would get done in 6 business days… and they started messaging me passive-aggressive comments on Sunday- 3 days into the project, providing me feedback on pages that weren’t even finished yet. A client that asked me to screenshot images from a PDF and use photoshop to create some of the desired pages- none of which I was hired to do. So, this made me think it’s necessary to write a post on how to deal with these very difficult clients.
Here are 6 tips for dealing with difficult clients:
1. Add FroMLE to the end of ignorant statements.
I read about this gem in a blog post, and it helped my situation so much. FroMLE stands for “from my limited experience,” and the trick is to add this phrase—mentally—to the end of statements others say. For example, my client would not understand that the specific theme we have chosen does not have a video option and that I would need to custom code that. When they send blog posts about how to do things to you it becomes quite insulting.
For example, my client would say things like “I’m not a designer and even I could do ….___”, which is not only insulting but also infuriating because they don’t understand the technical requirements that are needed.
However, if you add o “from my limited experience” to the end of that statement in your head, it helps you ease that uneasy feeling. Perhaps your client believes the work isn’t so difficult because he/she doesn’t understand the complexity of the work. Try this trick, and you will feel that you become more tolerant of the sometimes idiotic things that emerge from your difficult clients’ mouths.
2. Remain calm and respond professionally.
Though the client may send condescending, rude or unprofessional messages, your job is to look past that and remain calm and professional AT ALL TIMES. Some good phrases to use often are:
- “I appreciate this feedback,…”
- “How about I try X and we arrange for an update call?”
3. Use the 5 minute rule.
If you feel like a response may be passive aggressive, may not be taken well by the client, or may be unprofessional- wait 5 minutes before you send it. Take a short walk, take a breather, do something nice that makes you feel good- then come back to the message and rewrite it. If a client is very hard to deal with and you just want to explain to them why things are not working and that they are unreasonable- DON’T. Sit on that thought. Write it to yourself. Do whatever you need to do, but NEVER tell the client that they are wrong.
4. Mirror your clients requirements back to them
Clients just want to feel understood and feel confident that you can create the vision they have in their mind. A good way to make sure you’re both on the same page is to mirror back to them their requirements using similar language so that they can feel more comfortable. Mirroring your client’ words can also help put them at ease and assures them that you understand their needs.
5. Acknowledge, but don’t agree.
Do not add fuel to the fire by agreeing with your client. Try to switch the conversation tracks to the resolution as quickly as you can by simply acknowledging their concern and moving toward a solution. Some good phrases to use are:
- “I understand your concern, how about we try Y…“
- “I’m sorry that you feel this way, Mr./Mrs.…”
- “May I suggest that…?”
- “What I’ll do to resolve this is…”
6. Remember they are only human.
Many times difficult clients, even ones with legitimate concerns, may just be unloading their stress on you. It’s important to remember that a client is simply a human looking for you to fulfill a service that they need. They have a life outside of work, outside of your relationship, and many factors that can affect their behaviour and mental state when communicating with you. Maybe they are stressed at home, maybe they have a lot of pressure on them to finish the project- and maybe they take it out on you. This is not an excuse, but it is an important fact to remember when responding to clients and when deciding the kind of language you want to use with them. Be mindful of how you react, and try to remember that they are only human.