When a client becomes angry, it can become a difficult situation for everyone involved. The client has expectations that, for whatever reason, they feel have not been met. This can—and often does—lead to a confrontation between client and vendor. It is no coincidence that dealing with these situations is at the top of every business person’s list of questions. So we are continuing our in-depth examination of our 5 Steps to Dealing with “Difficult” Clients with our second step, It’s Just Business.
As professionals, we can—and should—take pride in our work. Very often we identify our work as an extension of our personal worth. When a client does not appreciate our work, or questions it, it can seem like more than a simple case of dissatisfaction; it can feel like a personal attack. However, it is important to remove yourself from the situation as a “creator,” and approach the matter as a problem solver. In most small businesses, you will find yourself wearing both hats, so this is a great skill to nurture.
Take a deep breath, arm yourself with a bit of empathy, and follow these five tips to help guide you from “offended artist” to “problem-solving professional.”
1. Business Is Business. In the midst of a confrontation, it’s often difficult to remember that this is a business transaction, just like any other. It just so happens to be a transaction in which the problem you are trying to solve is closer to home. So instead of viewing the situation as an “argument,” view it as any other business opportunity. This outlook can put you in the mindset to stop viewing issues as “problems” and start viewing them as “business.”
2. Sticks and Stones. Words can sting when you are on the receiving end of a client’s ire. But it is important to remember that what is being said comes from a position of feeling wronged in some manner. At times like these, people are prone to bad behavior, hyperbole, and, worst of all, abusive language. It will serve you best to focus on the message, not how the client says it. Try to set aside the anger, exaggeration, and abuse to find the meaning in the message. This is the shortest route to a solution!
3. Even Tones Matter. When people are upset with you, it’s easy to become upset yourself. And that can lead you to raise your voice, which is a gateway to an ever-degrading situation in which both sides yell louder and louder, but no one really listens. The ideal way to avoid that kind of situation is to concentrate on keeping your voice calm and even, regardless of what your client may say.
4. Body Language Speaks Loudly. Some of the hardest situations to deal with are those in which your client confronts you in person. This extra dimension adds a whole new level of complexity to the situation with body language that does not exist on the phone or in an email. In these situations, posture is a key tool in your arsenal. Ignoring this fact can lead you to slouch, cross your arms, or otherwise convey a silent hostility. Instead, ensure your posture is straight and your stance is open. Don’t appear closed off with accidental body language.
5. Wait. By far the most powerful tool at your disposal when dealing with an upset client is also your simplest: wait. All you have to do is wait to let them speak. Wait to respond to an angry email or voicemail. Wait to decide what to do next. The simple act of giving yourself a buffer between the heat of confrontation and action can help you better choose your next move and keep things in a proper business perspective.
It is never easy to deal with anyone who is upset. Taking a moment to remember even one of these five tips will help you navigate the choppy waters of dissatisfaction and make your way to a calm port. Remember, every angry client represents an individual who cares enough about the service you provide to become emotionally invested. This identifies them as exactly the type of person who can just as easily become a great advocate for your business, recommending your services to others. Proper handling of this “difficult” client could prove to be a windfall for any small business!