As business owners, there are a lot of challenges that pop up along the way. But of all the different things that get thrown our way, there are certain ones that tend to be harder than others.
One of the hardest ones is staying calm with your clients.
Sometimes things don’t go as smoothly as we’d like. Maybe you’re dealing with a client who’s a bit unhappy or one who’s being unreasonable. Either way, your job as a professional is to stay calm and handle it.
Whether or not you feel your client is “justified” in feeling how they do, you’re the one that has to deal with it. This is why we all need to develop the skills needed to handle sticky situations with grace.
Here are three ways to keep your cool on the outside with your clients…even when you’re FREAKING out on the inside:
#1. Your Client Finds a Mistake and They Aren’t Happy
Mistakes happen to everyone. No matter how type A or how much of a perfectionist you are.
The question isn’t really if there’s a mistake but more about the how and why the mistake happened.
As tempting as it is to immediately launch into “what happened!?!” mode, your immediate priority needs to be getting things on track with your client.
The first step is to own the mistake. No excuses. (Playing the blame game only makes an unhappy client even more displeased.) From there, your focus should shift to fixing the error immediately.
One of my go-to phrases when something goes off track is: “Thanks so much for letting me know. Here’s how we’re going to fix it.” The key to that is not just owning it, but being helpful and specific about how you’re going to make it right.
For example, let’s say you have a client launching a new website. Everything was on track and as far as you knew, things were set to go off without a hitch. And then on launch day, you get a call from your client saying there are broken links and some of the content is messed up.
Instead of wasting time playing the “who’s fault is it” game, your priority should recovery. Apologize and fix the problem. From there, you can reassure the client that it won’t happen again.
Once the issue is dealt with, THEN you can start to look at processes and figure out where the breakdown occurred and how to avoid it happening again in the future. (The exception being, of course, if your client is the one who made the mistake and/or caused it by doing something counter to your best counsel. Then you want to find a way to address that with them.)
#2. They Aren’t Getting the Results They Expected
Sometimes clients are going to be unhappy with how things are going in their business, or on the project you’re working on.
The first thing to remember, so you can stay calm, is that they may not be angry/upset/pissed at you and it may be more general frustration and they’re talking to you as someone they trust.
Before you react, take some time to assess if this is a “you” problem or a much bigger problem. If it’s a bigger problem, hear them out and support them the best way you can. Sometimes this will just be listening, other times you may have to serve up some hard truths about their expectations.
If it’s a problem specific to you, figure out what your role in it is, and then counsel them through it. Keep your calm and avoid getting into placing blame as much as possible.
If things get a bit heated, keep it classy. Stand your ground and stick to the facts, even if they’re freaking out. And if things cross the line, it’s okay for you to shut down the conversation until everyone can behave professionally.
#3. They’re Asking for Things Out-of-Scope
When you provide services, scope creep is a real thing. Sometimes it’s the number of revisions or something the client doesn’t think is that big of a deal.
The problem being….it usually IS a bigger deal than the client thinks.
When we feel like clients are starting to take advantage or getting overly demanding, it can get us all worked up as it’s bordering on obnoxious and disrespectful.
The best way to handle this is to not react. Stay cool and figure out what’s really going on. Because if they’re picking at you over something that isn’t part of the project, it may not really be about that one thing at all.
- Why are they asking for this?
- Do they know it’s out of scope?
- Should it have been in scope?
There’s a difference between a request that’s just a little over the line and something that’s really an entirely new project.
For little things that they want along the way, account for it ahead of time and ensure you have wiggle room in the project budget. Your planning should always include some time and bandwidth for the little extras. That way you can do it and provide a great experience to the client.
For bigger, truly out of scope requests, you need to be kind but firm. Something along the lines of, “Great, we definitely can do that. I need to let you know this would be a new project that needs to be budgeted for and billed for separately. Would you like a quote for it?”
That typically will clarify what’s going on. And be sure as you’re staying calm when holding your ground. You can be a total pro, even if the client doesn’t get it or is pushing your limits.
Get Into Action
No matter what happens, always remember that you’re a professional. While you want to stay calm, you’re human and don’t have to accept treatment that crosses the line. Feel free to shut down conversations that go too far and if the client is being highly unprofessional.
The next time you find yourself in a situation with an unhappy client, remember these tips:
- Take a deep breath and assess the situation.
- Do not react right away.
- Stay cool and be professional day in, day out.