We’ve all had that one client who seems to make things excessively difficult. Perhaps they’ve too overbearing or controlling, their expectations may be way too high, or they’re simply not a good fit for your business.
The most efficient way to deal with difficult clients (if you want to keep them) is to prevent problems from ever happening.
At the beginning of my career, I took on any and every client. I was trying to make a name for myself in the industry and to do that I needed to grow my reputation and business.
However, over the years, as my firm became more successful I realized not every client is going to be a good fit.
Once I let go of the idea that I had to accept every client, I was able to work with people who I enjoyed and who valued my services. As a result, I got better at my job, my clients were happier, and I got more referrals.
Before accepting a new client, I urge you to consider some of the warning signs of a difficult client.
Some clients will go so far as to threaten their advisors or use manipulative behavior to try and get what they want.
The client assumes no responsibility when results are poor and always plays the role of the victim.
Identify if your client has big goals or simply unrealistic ones; they may be hard to please later down the line.
They agree with you one day, then disagree the next; they deny saying certain things or fabricate conversations/scenarios which never took place.
And, consider the following when it comes to dealing with difficult clients.
During any interactions with the client, always take notes or ask if the meeting can be recorded.
This has two benefits.
If things really escalate, documentation also can be procured before an arbitration panel.
Advisors should aim to meet with their clients at least quarterly. Regular meetings are an important time to discuss new opportunities, settle disagreements and plot a course of action moving forward.
Regular reviews build confidence in your services and demonstrate your due diligence to the client. They are also an important aspect of building a long-term relationship and strong communication.
It is always better to be on the side of offense than defense. If you notice a client is unhappy, address it right away, rather than waiting for things to escalate and get worse.
If the market is down and impacts your client’s account, alert them right away. Don’t hope it will go unnoticed or that you can brush it under the rug.
Dealing with disagreement or conflict is best approached proactively than reactively.
I harp on this one a lot, but it’s because it is so important. Go the extra mile and make it a point to communicate with your client via phone or ideally in person, rather than purely email.
Communication is king in client relationships.
I always make it a point to remember small details about my client, including about their families, hobbies, profession, drink preferences, interests, education/professional background, etc.
Whenever a client comes in for a meeting, I always make sure to have their drink of choice waiting. On more than one occasion, I’ve sent personalized cards for the birth of a new child or grandchildren, Christmas cards and so on.
At the beginning of a meeting, I always engage in a bit of small talk, asking about their last vacation, how their favorite baseball team is performing and so on.
Building a personal, as well as professional relationship with your client will form stronger bonds and make your relationship that much more enjoyable!
Some clients want the sun and the moon, regardless of what reality entails. At the inception of a client relationship, conduct a thorough interview to understand what the client’s goals, motivations and expectations are.
Don’t commit to anything you cannot reasonable produce and don’t make promises you can’t keep. Of course you want to please your client, but promising something, then not performing will only lead to frustration and distrust.
It is always better to set lower expectations and exceed them than vice-versa.
Like I said, not every client is going to be a good fit for your firm. Holding on to difficult clients will sap your energy, patience and time, which could be better spent with other clients.
A difficult client is not always worth the paycheck. In the end, you’ll offer the best service when you enjoy who you’re working with and they you.
In my book, Seven Figure Firm: How to Build a Financial Services Business that Grows Itself I talk about how I work with clients and who I do not work with.
Have you ever dealt with a difficult client? Tell us how you handled it in the comments below.