As much as we long for our workdays to run smoothly without problems, at some point during the day you’re faced with a challenge. It’s an inevitable part of life that challenges will occur. Those challenges range from having technical difficulty with your computer all the way to having a client who wants to terminate their contract because they don’t think you’re helping them.
While I can’t help you predict every single that could go wrong in your business, here are some ideas for handling disgruntled clients. Incorporate these proactive business-building ideas to help avoid unhappy clients, but also make sure you take care of yourself so you’re in a better position to remain stress-free when situations arise (and they will).
While you don’t want to dwell on the fact that bad situations may arise, knowing how you’ll handle yourself in difficult situations can be a relief when the time comes.
Think up some “worst possible scenarios,” write them down, and then write down how you’d handle each situation. Take time to really think through each scenario and then rewrite your answers as needed. Keep this reference handy so you can just pull it out when you have a difficult client.
While creating your action plan above, think about business processes you can implement to handle disgruntled clients. You can’t rely on automation completely but certainly, an email can start the ball rolling. Just knowing the logical next step in the process can relieve stress when you’re worried about why this client is leaving you.
Click here to get my 10 done-for-you letters to help you manage difficult client situations. It’s the perfect thing to have on hand or to share with your VA when you’re in the midst of dealing with tough clients.
Practice what you preach. Review what boundaries you have in place and if they’re working for you. You are your client’s best teacher and you lead by example, so if they see you answering email at 11 pm, they will continue to reach out to you at all hours, fully expecting an immediate response.
Pro tip: If you like responding to email at 11 pm, that’s fine. Just install a tool like Boomerang and schedule them to go out during your work hours.
Don’t leave your clients guessing what they’re paying for. Add program details to each contract along with fees for handling extra requests.
Also, add each of your new policies to your contract and require an initial for each policy to show they read it. Worst case scenario: If the client says they didn’t know about a specific policy, you can point to the contract where they initialed as having read it. It’s tough to fight that!
If the idea of writing a contract makes you break out in hives, try starting with a contract template. Square.com has a set of 12 free templates available to all, even if you don’t use their payment service. Simply download, read the instructions on the first page of the file, then fill in the blanks.
When in doubt about what your contract should say (and to verify that your policies are legal), contact a lawyer to review your contract and policies. Find an attorney who works with small businesses in your state or province or try a service like Legal Zoom.
Legal Zoom has attorneys in all 50 U.S. states and offers an array of services from business setup and operations to living wills and estate planning. Pricing ranges from flat fees for independent projects or a monthly fee that allows monthly consultations with an attorney and an annual business review.
If you tend to take criticism personally and you get flustered easily when someone is upset, consider hiring a Virtual Assistant to handle that initial contact. With the proper training, a VA can diffuse the situation before you even have to get involved.
Don’t get overwhelmed with the idea of hiring a contractor. Ask some business friends for referrals or reach out to me directly for a great referral. As a former VA agency owner, I know a ton of amazing contractors that fit every budget.
This is your ideal client who you’d love to work with. You have most likely gone through this exercise already but even if you already have a clear profile, a quick review is a good thing.
Remember, even if your business can serve EVERYONE, it’s best to narrow down your market to pick the best person for YOU to work with. Get detailed with the description. Give your ideal client a name. Get to really know what pains this person and what they’ll pay you to help them get rid of that pain point.
I’m not saying that you should only work with absolutely ideal clients, but you should be ready to turn down those who aren’t even close, even if you can help them.
Now that you’re clear on who you’re trying to attract into your business, hire a copywriter to review ALL your website copy and program descriptions to be sure you’re hitting the right emotions. Consider this an investment in your business, especially if you’re having difficulty attracting clients in general or if you’re attracting the wrong type of clients.
Although a copywriter can’t guarantee success, they should have an extensive resume of working with other businesses or marketers and should happily give you references to check.
Taking care of yourself is paramount to running your business and taking care of your family. If you’re sick, then your business isn’t flourishing. If you’re burnt out, then your business is stagnant.
Simply taking breaks during the day and going outside for 15 minutes increments can be helpful to calm your mind. Do yoga and pilates videos on Youtube, join a gym or a roadrunners club. Take a bath with Epsom salts and your favorite essential oils. Self-care doesn’t require a long-time commitment but it should be done daily for best stress-free results.
Getting away from all electronics for the weekend isn’t a torture test; instead, you’ll be surprised at how much more time you have in your day when you’re not glued to a screen.
At the very least, unplug your brain from electronics at least one hour before bed every night. Also keep phones, tablets, and televisions out of the bedroom for the most relaxing sleep. Those ambient light rays actually harm your sleep pattern which accounts for still feeling sleepy when you wake up in the morning.
Prospective clients will be attracted to you when they see you in action. Whether that’s on a Facebook Live video, on a podcast interview, or hosting a webinar, people will make quick judgments about your coaching style based on how you conduct yourself.
Being authentic with your stories and your demeanor will naturally make you more approachable to your fans. Some people will connect with your style and others won’t. So long as you’re authentic and not trying to imitate a big name guru, then you will attract your ideal client.
My favorite quote I came across recently is: “figure out how to get paid for being yourself”.
No one likes to be wrong but owning up to your mistakes, or mistaken advice, is a form of personal responsibility. You’re not playing the blame game by always pointing the finger at someone else. Instead, you’re showing your integrity by being honest and that goes a long way toward repairing relationships with clients who are about to leave you.
Don’t just “smile and nod” while your client rants endlessly. Listen carefully to their concerns, investigate their claims, and report back in a timely fashion how you’ll rectify the situation.
That does not mean, however, that you just roll over and give in to their demands. Each case is unique and your relationship with the client thus far will likely dictate how lenient you’ll be to keep them on your roster. But everyone wants and needs to be heard so listen and then suggest an appropriate solution. You can’t control whether your client will be happy with the resolution but you can say you tried your best.
It’s been proven that people will mirror the signals that you project in any situation. So, if your client is yelling at you, chances are you’ll want to yell right back. But what good will that do?
Try instead to act very calm, let them rant on, and then in a calm voice proceed with the conversation. Your client may subconsciously change their tone and then you can work toward a resolution.
That being said, don’t ever say anything that will sound like a scripted response by a customer service rep. Be genuine.
Terminating a client is always an option, no matter what the disagreement. Don’t worry about your bottom line and don’t worry about the loss of time you spent working with this client. If you can walk away with your integrity, knowing you did everything you could to help this client, then that should be enough.
Bill Gates said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Once you resolve your dispute with your client, go back over your notes and determine if things could have been handled differently. What could you have done differently? Your client? Could you have given different advice? Do you need to switch up your exercises or tools? Is there a process or tool you can implement to avoid this situation in the future?
Networking will keep prospects coming to you but you’ll also get to know other coaches in your circle so you’ll develop a nice list of referrals should anyone not be the right fit for your coaching business. Remember, not everyone will be YOUR ideal client but they may be someone else’s. Likewise, those coaches may also refer prospects to you or may even become your biggest affiliates if you have unique programs to offer.
This type of networking, especially with other coaches, also allows you to show your true, authentic self so if a disgruntled client writes an unflattering review online, you’ll have warriors in your corner defending you.
Unhappy clients often wield broad generalizations when they’re gearing up for an argument. But if you can listen carefully and ask them to be specific with their complaints, you may diffuse the situation quickly because they won’t have specific complaints. They may be unhappy that they’re not seeing the desired results overnight. Or they might be unhappy because they realize the desired results aren’t happening due to their inaction.
Of course, be prepared to hear something specific that you did or did not do. In this case, you’ll have to evaluate if this is a legitimate complaint and offer a resolution.
It’s so much easier to let your anger out on an invisible person at the other end of a telephone or a computer screen than when you’re face to face on a video conference. However, this plan can help tone down the conversation more quickly and you can also take notes on your whiteboard to show that you’re listening to your client’s problems and also to show that you’ve discussed certain topics if they come up again later.
If you don’t have a whiteboard, take notes during the call and then email them immediately so s/he knows you were paying close attention and care about resolving the issues.
It’s one thing to say, “Listen carefully” and another to actually practice active listening. Through simple body language, you can help diffuse a volatile discussion by staying calm, keeping eye contact, never interrupting, and repeating the most important points your client discussed. Active listening takes a little practice, especially if you have a million things racing around your brain, but this skill is valuable in all situations and with adults and children alike.
Just as the Boy Scouts say, “be prepared”, set a steady foundation for your coaching business with boundaries, contracts, and policies. Be flexible when an unusual situation occurs. Evaluate each event individually before jumping to conclusions or placing blame. Be confident in your skills and know that your time, experience, and knowledge are valuable. You may not be able to avoid unhappy clients forever but you’ll be better prepared when the time comes.
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