How to Handle an Unhappy Client

Continuing off part 1 this week where we talked about how to manage client expectations, today we’re discussing how to handle those clients who are unsatisfied or are just plain difficult. Honestly, it’s hard. But with these few tips, you can be on your way to handling it like and pro and even turning an unhappy client in to a happy one!

1. Breathe

It’s never fun to receive an email from a client expressing that they are unhappy with their service or product. Let’s be real, a lot of times it makes us want to cry, or puke, or both. Don’t take it as a personal attack or make mountains out of mole hills. The first step to handling this situation is to stop, and take five big breaths. This will help clear your head and calm you down so you can come up with a plan of action.

2. Decide if They’re “Difficult”

Is this an unhappy client or a difficult client? Did you have red flags before they said they were unhappy? You may not even know what type of client they are yet, but keep in mind as you move forward that there is a difference. With an unhappy client, there’s a good chance you can find a solution to solve the issue. A difficult client is one that will never be happy no matter what you do or how much you try.

3. Draft a Response

Go through and address the points they brought up. Let them know that you hear their complaints and understand. Then put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself “What can I do to make the situation right?” What can you do to provide the customer with a positive experience? Sometimes its an apology, print credit, or a reshoot that will make it right. If you look at it as an opportunity to create a win for you and the client, sometimes you can turn them into a client for life! I would rather have a client speak up and tell me when they’re unhappy so I can make it right, than keep it to themselves and go to a competitor instead. 

If an email doesn’t seem to work, give them a call to chat or even reach out to them to meet in person. People tend to be more calm when they are talking to an acutal human being and not getting all riled up via email. Have in your mind what you are willing to offer them. There can be some wiggle room for compromise, but don’t allow them to walk over you either. Stay firm and professional.

Depending on how your meeting or communication goes, you’ll do one of two things…

4a. Get it in Writing

Great! You’ve found a compromise. Make sure to send them a follow up email outlining the details of what you discussed. Be specific on the size, number, type of product or when, where, and how long the reshoot will be taking place. This goes back to managing their expectations and getting everything in writing for both of you.

4b. Fire them

Oh, turns out they’re one of the difficult ones? Looks like it might be time to fire them. There’s not much else you can do at this point if they can’t be please except waste your time and energy. Wrap up anything you are obligated to fulfill with them in your contract, and then part ways as nicely and professionally as you can. Honestly, if they were that bad of a fit, you probably don’t want the referrals they would send anyway.

5. Follow Through

Make sure that you follow through as promptly as you can! Don’t put off anything and give them the best experience or product you possibly can. Whether they were just an unhappy client or one of the difficult ones.

The most important thing you can do through everything is to stay calm and professional and listen to what your client has to say. How about you? How have you been successful handling an unhappy client in the past?





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