Dealing with difficult clients

10 Difficult stereo type clients and how to deal with them

Mebsites is really four different business is one that complient each other; Website Development, Design and graphics, Website hosting and cloud services and Support/After sales.

As an owner and active member of the support desk we deal with a wide range of people. We are very lucky that only once in a blue moon we will have difficults with clients and they normally boil down to communication breakdown of some sort. I Think this is because we are always coming from a place of genuine help and will go above and beyond what is required to fix issues. Yes for the odd person or situation there is a level we won't tolerate (personal threats) or there is just no pleasing them and we normally agree to part ways.

That been said, I do see the traits of the list below daily to a mild degree. We seek to manage everyone and help them as best as we can always regardless of their skill set or personalty. Consequently take this with a grain of salt as it is a rehash from another blog (references in the Bibiliography).

Difficult Client 1: Haggling Harry/Harriet

They are brash and opinionated, they will jump straight into negiotations before even describing what they want/need or hearing our concerns or thoughts. They become focused on the titles of what they are getting they forget the detail and what appears as value on the surface can often be just a bunch of empty promises.

What to do: Define all the requirements, timeline from the start. Allocated hours spend for each item, so they can see where the money is going and where there are possiblities to trim back costs. If you have an online management system give them access to it, so they can track in real time how things are progressing. Explain your thinking behind the pricing. It is all fair and well getting great value for money. However most developers are smaller operators and will walk away from a project if it is no longer paying the bills. This outcome isn't good for anyone.

A Low-Tech Louis/lois will call instead of emailing, insist everything be faxed to him/her and will want in-person meetings for all aspects of a project that are usually resolved via your project management system. If you ask him about the Cloud, he points out the window. All your productive, time-saving systems will grind to a halt as Low-Tech Louis refuses to learn how to send an email or want to sit looking over your shoulder giving directions for 3 months.

For us we assess the tech level of clients we take on. The reason being we can't offer in person meetings for every issue at our pricing. Nor do I want to, if we ever Hire sales people that might change. However for us we love building and creating great business sites. We know what we need to do and how to manage gathering information and get sites done quickly and cheaply. Two hour meetings three times a week don't fit in that model.

Other places are different they will roll out the red carpet make you coffee and muffins. Site with you talking about your kids etc all while the metre is running. I'm more of a pragmatist and want to deal with business owners who want stuff done quickly, cheaply and without fuss. Normal for us is a few personal meetings face to face/skype or just phone. Then the rest is skype, email and phone calls.

Efficence is very important in our business model. Our clients want their sites built as quickly as possible, in under 3 months in most cases, sometimes even in days.

For me it is a communication issue to. Sometimes you just struggle, due to personalty, style or whatever. Consequently for me, if at the quoting stage the client is arguementive and or not understanding our basic concepts/ways then I have to assume it could get worse down the line when things require more detail and more interaction.

Sometimes things just can't be simplified and detailed. So long as you set the ground rules from the start you'll be fine. Client we need confirmations and information in this manner. We will do xyz. If we make a request and you need it simplified sometimes that just can't be done and you'll just have to trust us. Untrusting Low tech client is an instant no for me.

The exceptions are the client doesn't under much of what is going on and are happy for us to manage the whole project from start to finish, with a few simple checks and balances along the way. We have many happy clients in the catagory and I love dealing with them. I also feel very privilage that they have so much trust in us they let us do what ever we feel fit.

Difficult client 3. Second Opinion Sam

Second-Opinion Sam might be a single cog in the machine of a giant corporation, or a small businessman sharing responsibilities with a spouse, business partner or particularly astute cat. Either way, he has to get a second, or third, or tenth opinion from his office on absolutely every decision. This makes Sam painfully slow to work with and often returning with conflicting ideas he expects you to resolve.

I am fine with second opinions. However, there needs to be an understanding if it takes three weeks on every second guess that pushes the timeline out. Secondly, we define our methods and theory from the outset, so second opinions need to be done then. Not on sign off. Thirdly for us we don't do builds that will take more than four months for one stage, so if your second checks will push that out we may not be able to take on your project.

I also find slow long projects tend to end up patch works (why we don't do it). Often different developers working on things and if time goes on to long you are even making updates before things are finished.

Difficult client4. Need it now Norman or Nancy

Nancy is a repeat client, which is wonderful, but every job Nancy brings to you needed to be done last week. Nancy believes all her jobs are “high priority” and doesn’t know or care that you have other clients.

How to Deal with Need-it-Now Nancy: You need to carefully manage how much of Need-it-Now Nancy’s work you take on at any one time, and you should only have one Nancy on the books at any one time – any more is a recipe for high stress.

You need to get Nancy to understand that repeated urgent requests are unacceptable – do this in a gentle, joking tone, but be firm when you say that you are making an exception for her, and that you won’t be able to again. Often, Need-it-Now Nancy’s have so much urgent work because they are disorganized and they don’t realize how their habits affect your business – so it’s up to you to make her understand!

For us also need it now means higher prices, because we have to upset others to do it. Also it may require two or more people stopping all other work and devoting all their time to your project.

We do specialise is fast turn around, but there is a limit to hours in the day and how many late nights we can handle.

Difficult Client 5. Indescisive Ian or Irlene

Indecisive Ian doesn’t know what he wants. But what he wants isn’t what you’ve created. He can’t tell you what it is, but he’ll know it when he sees it. A simple job can be stalled by several rounds of intensive edits while you and your team take wild stabs in the dark at trying to perfect Ian’s impossible vision.

How to Deal with Indecisive Ian: You cannot design what the client wants if the client doesn’t know what he wants. Indecisive Ian will be one of your most difficult and frustrating clients – and he may become frustrated himself if he doesn’t see the “perfect design” he imagines.

Be very clear from the beginning exactly what revisions cost, and make sure this is outlined in the contract. Taking the time to produce a detailed creative brief will also help you narrow down the parameters of the project, and it will be less likely to spiral out of control.

We are pretty accepting of revisions long as they are going in a direction towards completion. If I find they are jumping all over the place with no progress. The project stops until we re-define what finished means. If we can't the project is ended. At the end of the day dancing around for months on end getting know where helps no one. Even if we are getting paid, I want a finish line defined. Without one tears always follow.

Difficult Client 6. Copycat Colin/Candice

Candice has come to you with a problem: She’s seen one of her competitors websites in your portfolio, and it look so awesome she’s decided she needs a her website done, too. The problem is, she wants you to basically copy what you’ve done for that previous client!

Copycat your not our client. We do original work only. What we do is sit down and work out what aspects about the other site you like and want to incorporate into your original design. Copying other peoples designs pixel by pixel is often a breach of copyright, not fair practice and doing no client a favour. We actually encourage clients to try to be the opposite of their competition so they stand out.

Difficult Client 7. Lets-try-it-my-way-larry

Larry can be a difficult client to spot. Upon first encounter, he appears to be the perfect client – enthusiastic, interested in learning about the process and willing to try your more creative ideas. But the first clue comes when he starts telling you about his skill as a designer/photographer/artist, and before you know it he’s pushing copies of his own concept sketches into your arms.

How to Deal with Lets-Try-It-My-Way-Larry: I get it – you don’t want to be the one to burst his bubble. Larry is a good client, but he’s not a creative professional, and his ideas wouldn’t be the way you’d approach the project. So what to do?

The best way to approach Larry is to use his ideas as a jumping-off point for the creative team. Take concepts – rather than actual designs – and use them as the framework for the project. Explain to Larry that he has specific ideas in mind, so you’re going to follow that direction, however he’s welcome to sit back and let you do your job.

Difficult client 8. Paranoid Peter

Paranoid Philip is dangling an exciting, top-secret project for a major brand right in front of your nose, but his non-disclosure agreement is the length of a historical novel and he is demonstrating a distinctly antagonistic attitude toward your staff. He seems convinced you’re going to rip him off, and nothing you say will convince him to otherwise.

How to Deal with Paranoid Philip: A paranoid client will present you with a significant amount of legal documentation drawn up to protect their interests. This usually means 101 ways to get out of paying you for your work. You must hire your own lawyer to go through the documents to make sure you’re covering your own back.

Don’t take on a paranoid client for a small job, as the legal fees and hassles involved will eat away what little profit you’d have made. For a large job or a high profile client, make sure your contract is explicit, with lawyers fees added to your total.

I don't really Blame this person. I see people getting ripped off all the time. We normally get along great, because we operate transparently so everything is easily checked off. Were it can breakdown is cost. It costs more to do this stuff. If I have to pay my lawyer a $1000 to check off your contract it is going to worked into the price. If I have to submit detailed reports, which then have to checked off etc that is going to cost more than a phone call to say something is done. Also when Peter doesn't have the technical skill to check something off as being done we have a problem. Finish lines need to be defined.

Difficult client 9. The too-cool-for-you Yolanda

Yolanda works in an industry everyone dreams of getting into – music, or film, or space-exploration. She has a job for you, but she knows that if you don’t take it, she’ll easily find another designer or agency who will. Too-Cool-for-You Yolanda acts like she’s doing you a favor by giving you a job, and she usually expects special treatment for her trouble, such as a discounted rate.

Yolanda is a strategic move for new players wanting to build up there portfolio. Having 20 years of work in my portfolio this is much interest to us. We almost trump Yolanda being a privilage we do the work for her. However our work is cool we are not so there are no James deans in my portfolio.

Difficult client 10. Disappearing David

David was super-enthusiastic about your design project in the beginning, and he approved initial roughs very quickly. But now, you need his approval on the first proofs, as well as a deposit, and he’s not following up with you and not answering his emails.

How to Deal with Disappearing David: It could be that David has a lot on his plate right now. It could be that he has family issues keeping him away from work. It could be that he’s having email issues. It could be that he’s simply disorganized. Or it could be that he’s deliberately trying to stiff you for your fee.

The only way to find out is to contact David. If you can’t get hold of him via email after a week of trying, then give him or his business a call. Let him know that you’re halting work on the project until you hear back from him. And don’t give it another thought till you do!

Difficult design clients come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. But it is how you deal with them that define you as a business owner. Have you had a difficult design client recently? How did you deal with their situation?

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Senior Developer at Mebsites on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. Mebsites is an acclaimed Magento and Custom Framework Web Software coding house.
Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia Website