We’ve all had them in one form or another – they seem to be unavoidable. Even with checks and balances in place to assure you only attract your ideal clients, as definite as the sun rises each day, you’ll have the “pleasure” of dealing with at least one nightmare client during your journey into business. Before going any further, let’s all make sure we’re on the same page.
Who Exactly Is “The Nightmare Client?”
You know. The client who starts out as a great client, says all the right things and earns the opportunity to do business with you; then, before you know it, they unfortunately turn into something completely different.
It’s like that certain kind of a boy or a girl who is on their best behavior for the first few dates because they really want that boyfriend or girlfriend. Once the relationship becomes more official, BAM! Non-sense comes to the surface, and you’re left scratching your head – wondering what just happened.
Whether you deliver a product or service, the nightmare customer exists in every business in every industry. We’re not here to tell you how to attract your ideal client; there are plenty of posts written on that subject by others.
In this post, we’d like to cover some basics on how to deal with the nightmare client once they found their way into your reality; we’re not here to be dark or dismal, at all; we’re here to simply point out the life fact that nightmare client does happen at some point.
You can set realistic expectations and be as clear as possible about the details of a project; however, that doesn’t eliminate the fact that nightmare clients are lurking everywhere, and once you’ve come into contact with one, you’ll need to do your absolute best to handle him or her in with a calm, collected head and in a sensible way.
How To Deal With Nightmare Clients “The Right Way”
1. Take Deep Breaths: when you get that email that confirms your fears (that you have a nightmare client on your hands) it’s best to take a few deep breaths and understand this happens to all of us; you’re certainly not the first or the last person to have to deal with it. If your heart is racing and you’re muttering under your breath, or screaming, now would not be the time to address the issue. Instead, focus on your breaths, wait until you cool down, and then revisit the best way to handle this.
2. Don’t Respond Right Away: it’s extremely important to think things through in a logical and objective way, and not respond in haste with your emotions running the show. It’s natural to get upset, annoyed, etc.; but it’s not good business to respond with those negative emotions as guides. Give yourself some time to acknowledge the situation for what it is, and come up with the best strategy to resolve it before you respond.
3. Know What You Send In Writing Is Permanent: once an email is sent, there’s no taking it back. If you respond in haste (see point above about not doing this) chances are you will say something you did not really want to say, or would have preferred to say differently. Get all of your frustration out by “talking to yourself” and to a trusted partner, colleague, etc., just don’t get into a shouting match via email because all of those communications can be used against you.
4. Don’t Stoop To Their Level: this is a tough one, but also one of the most important items to keep in mind. Nothing would be easier than pointing out all that the nightmare client did wrong, and bring to light all that has made him or her the nightmare client in the first place; but, at the end of the day, it may help you vent, but what real good will it bring? Probably none! Because, if that client were a logical, sensible, and good businessman – this situation would not exist in the first place. So it is up to you to be the bigger person and stay above the fray. You’re succeeding in your business for a reason, they’re struggling for a reason – don’t let their negativity permeate your reality.
5. Accept Responsibility: there’s almost always a silver lining to be found in every situation in life. Even if you treated your nightmare client the best you could and did everything in your power to deliver what you promised, understand there are still some things you probably could have done differently. We all know, hindsight is 20/20 and there’s no point nor is it possible to go back and undo and then re-do something; however, the smartest and most successful people know there is a lesson to be learned in every situation. Do your best to see the opportunity for learning, accept responsibility where you can and should, and move on with a renewed sense of understanding what your clients are going to have some very different personalities and what it takes to do the correct thing for each of them.
6. Wish Them Well: people make mistakes, it’s human nature; so as a fellow human, there’s no need to hold onto resentment and ill will. Instead, see if there’s a lesson to be learned, be grateful for all the great clients, and move on. While moving on, be sure to sincerely wish your nightmare client all the best. You being the bigger person and wishing them well could go a long way, or not. Whatever they’re doing with that, you cannot control; you are doing the right thing, which is all that matters.
7. Understand They Are Experiencing Life In Different Ways: chances are, their blowup, accusations, etc., has less to do with you than you may think. Many people bring their personal lives and overall life struggles to work with them; through your business you sometimes get the short end of the stick. Also, it could be a big misunderstanding or miscommunication that blew out of proportion. Take it, do something productive with it and be sure you come out stronger because of it. Whatever happens, if you know you did your best and delivered what you could; but don’t sweat it more than necessary – chances are it’s less about you and much more about what’s going on in their lives or business.
8. Make It Apparent The Relationship Is Over (Be Official): don’t assume your few emails, phone calls, etc., where the “fight” takes place, to be the official ending of your relationship. Be smart and write a well-thought out email that describes exactly why the relationship is ending and what, if any, the final deliverables are. If you have a legal team, it would help to send them this “final” email for review before sending to your nightmare client to ensure you’re getting your message across in the best possible and professional way.
9. Stay Positive And Don’t Get Discouraged: as mentioned in the beginning of this post, remember you’re not the first business owner to have a nightmare client and you won’t be the last. You can have all the right processes in place to attract the perfect client and can meditate each day to attract only the good, but even with all those preventative measures in place, you will still likely run into a nightmare client at least once or twice over the life of your business. Do not let this discourage you. The important thing to remember here is that you’re doing your best, your other clients appreciate you and tomorrow is another day to make special things happen for your ideal clients. Go out there and make magic happen, even when obstacles present themselves to you.
When’s the last time you had to deal with a nightmare client? How did you overcome it and were you able to stay positive?
Share your stories with others in the comments below.