Oh no, an unhappy client — WORST NIGHTMARE EVER, RIGHT? Actually, it doesn’t have to be!
Unhappy clients are inevitable. Sooner or later, you’ll run into a client who doesn’t like your services. In fact, you might have already.
But that doesn’t mean you’re a bad entrepreneur, business owner, freelancer, etc. Unhappy clients can mean a lot of things — that it wasn’t a good fit, that you have some things you need to tweak in your approach, or even something totally unrelated to you.
Luckily, getting one of these unhappy clients does not mean you need to shut down your business immediately (WE CAN GET THROUGH THIS!). I’ve had my fair share of unhappy clients — yep, happens to all of us! — so I’ve developed a formula for making sure I’m doing everything I can to create a harmonious relationship, including exactly what to do when a client becomes unhappy.
Before Taking on a New Client
The process for dealing with unhappy clients actually begins BEFORE they become your client! When you’re deciding whether or not to take on a new client, make sure you properly vet them.
This means diagnosing the problems a new client is coming to you with and making sure it’s the right job for you. Sometimes, new clients come to us asking for something that’s not in our wheelhouse. This may be a sign not to take them on!
Perhaps even more important than vetting your client, is vetting them in your gut. Some clients just aren’t a good fit for us, and that’s okay! Check in with your gut to see if it’s the right client for you. If your gut says no, then say no to taking on the client, too! You don’t have to have a “rational” reason to say no.
Finally, before taking on a new client, always make sure you have a contract in place that covers exactly what happens if they cancel their program so there are no surprises for anyone.
While Working With an Unhappy Client
While working with a client, if you discover that they are unhappy with your services, the first step is to make sure you understand exactly why they’re unhappy.
Don’t get defensive — that’s a sure fire way to make things worse. Instead, listen to the client’s worries and help them feel heard. Remember: it’s just business. Keep your cool and don’t let their issues cloud your professionalism.
It’s also important to remember that just because you’re listening to an unhappy client and making them feel understood, it doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily right or that you have to agree with them. It just means you’re seeing things from their point of view!
While listening to the client, make sure to ask them what expectations they had and what you could do to help meet those expectations.
Usually, unhappy clients are a result of you and the client having different ideas about what was supposed to happen. Try to find out what they were hoping for and see if you can adjust your process to make that a reality.
If an unhappy client starts arguing about details, don’t defend yourself. Just listen and understand that it’s not your fault. The client may have personal issues you’re not aware of making them more disagreeable than usual.
Sometimes, You Have to Let Them Go…
Sometimes, an unhappy client needs to be “let go.” People might just not be the right match for each other, and that’s OK! If you’re wondering about ending a contract with a client, ask yourself these questions:
- Is this client draining me?
- Do I really want to work with them?
- Are their opinions on my business correct?
- Is there something I can change or do better?
After Losing a Client
If an unhappy client turns into an ex-client, remember not to take it too personally. It’s a business, and their opinions don’t reflect on your worth. Businesses lose clients all the time, it’s definitely nothing new or unique to you.
Because you are not a failure. You’re just a business owner! And business owners are fallible — so are clients. Don’t let a negative experience make you feel less about yourself, and don’t let it make you bitter towards an ex-client.
The last piece of the puzzle is to analyze the situation and reflect on the process. Should you have dropped the client earlier when you detected warning signs? Could you have improved some part of your service?
Use the experience as something to learn from, and don’t feel bad if you realize there are things you could improve. We’re all on this journey together, and bumps along the way are the best way for us to learn!