The Demanding Client Vs. The Unreasonable Client
At one time or another, we all have dealt with our share of demanding clients. You know, the clients who believe you work exclusively for them. After a while, we come to know the nature and tone of each conversation we will have with them. No matter how hard we try to please them, at least one of those conversations will be an expletive embellished diatribe. But as always, we will comfort and reassure them. In the end, no matter what it takes, we will satisfy their every expectation and, heaven help us, they will soon return with another project.
It is my policy to try to never refuse business, and that certainly includes the business brought by demanding clients. Keep in mind that the operative word here is business, defined by Merriam Webster as: a noun – the activity of making, buying, or selling goods or providing services in exchange for money. Now one might ask: Can you actually make money with these types of clients? The answer is a definitive yes…you can make money with “demanding” clients. Difficult? Sometimes. Doable? Absolutely.
You will never make money.
Actually you will lose.
When first meeting with a client, you can usually glean a fairly accurate sense of his/her expectations concerning the project at hand. That’s the easy part. Estimating the evolution of the personality that will emerge once the contracts are signed is the challenging part. Below are a few ideas to help you manage potentially difficult clients and/or projects.
Win your client’s trust.
Take the time to inform your client of the competency of your staff. Provide a folder briefly reiterating facts that may already be on your website: Governance, biographies of key team members, endorsements, awards, the process associated with each project, pricing and above all…BOUNDARIES. Clients should know your professional parameters at the onset. Every aspect of the project should be indicated in the proposal, including anticipated time for periodic updates and discussions. The proposal should also state that any changes, requests, or other activities representing a departure from the terms of the proposal shall be deemed chargeable. In addition, the proposal should be read aloud to the client, so that there is no risk of miscommunication.
Negotiation is to be expected.
Most clients will want to know they are getting a good deal. Remind your client that an investment in your services is an investment in their business. On the other hand, an overly frugal client can mean trouble. I will make every attempt within reason, to work within a client’s budgetary guidelines. The depth of your team can provide a little flexibility here. Think of a lawyer who can reduce his hourly wage by having a paralegal do some of the work. But at some point, it’s important to remember you are running a business, not a charity. Devising a payment schedule and sticking to it is a must.
Sometimes, they think they know better.
Despite a client’s decision to hire a professional agency and despite all the efforts you’ve made to get your client to trust you, there will always be those clients who think they know better. These clients will tend to be unwilling to accept advice, resistant to change, and demand constant revisions. Often these may be well paying clients, but they can frustrate your staff, deplete their creative energy and end-up having you producing a project unbecoming of an agency like yours. On these occasions, you can only respectfully continue to make recommendations, apply any appropriate charges, complete the project and move on
There may be times when a client is slow to provide information or feedback.
There can be various reasons for the delay, so you shouldn’t take the lack of communication personally. On the other hand, if you find the client to be a habitual procrastinator, keep a very accurate paper trail, refer to the proposal and contract so that you can apply any additional charges resulting from the client’s inaction. Send an invoice reflecting the newly incurred fees and tell the client to reach-out to you when he/she is ready to proceed with the project.
You have assembled an outstanding group of professionals. You maintain a genuine interest in the success of your clients. You know the quality of the work your agency delivers. Respect your reputation and respect your clients. Just remember: respect is reciprocal. If you exemplify that respect to your team and your clients, you should expect and require that it be returned. When it is, you will distinguish yourself as a top tier agency with a successful record to prove it.
Demanding clients make you better. Cherish what they will teach you and “how managing to their demands”, within reason, will have a positive impact on your business. Once demanding clients become unreasonable, fire them. If not, get ready to layoff staff because your business will suffer. Often the most profitable deals are the deals you do not take.
856 304 2800