3 Types of Nightmare Clients and How to Deal with Them

No business is exempt from them. They come in all different shapes and sizes. They’re (dun, dun, dun)… Your nightmare customers. But, wait – before you run for the hills shrieking in terror, we’re here to show you just how to deal with them.

The relentless quoter

This customer never really buys anything. They’ll demand samples, research and presentations from you over and over again, just to drive down the price from their go-to supplier.

It’s hard to turn down opportunities. However, time is money and you have bills to pay just like everyone else.

To get out of the cycle, you could respond with something like:

I have enjoyed being of service to you in the past. However, after doing strategic analysis of our long term goals, we’ve decided not to participate in the bidding process going forward.

Our primary goals are to work closely with clients to provide a value-added service, where price is not the only consideration.

We would love to work with you as a strategic partner, and help you find solutions for your needs, but we’re unable to provide this level of dedicated customer service while responding to ‘lowest price wins’ inquiries.

Thanks for your understanding. If the situation changes in the future, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

However, some customers who request additional quotes from you simply may not know how much time it can take to fulfill their request.

That client is not trying to take advantage of you; all they need is clearer communication. Let them know, “I’d be happy to do that for you. But we are now charging an hourly rate for your professional research services.”

(Thank you Dave Holden and Jodi Leichtman Frank for some of this phrasing).

The verbal abuser

I’d be lying if I said I’ve never lost my cool when speaking with a customer service representative. We all have bad days, and although it’s no excuse to treat someone unkindly, it happens to the best of us.

But what do you do when you’re the one on the other end getting chewed out?

If a client is cursing, simply say, “There’s no need for improper language”. And while it’s not appropriate to get into an argument with a client, it is important to stand up for yourself. Sometimes you have to fire a client if they’re making you feel uneasy, because in the end they may not be worth it.

Your energy is better spent on making other customers happy, rather than arguing with a disgruntled one.

Through avoiding heavy reliance on a single customer and maintaining a diverse customer base, you’ll give yourself the power to walk away when you need to.

The threatener / bad reviewer

Whether it’s going to social media, online forums or review sites, it seems that more consumers these days are flexing their “bad review” muscle to exact special treatment from businesses.

Take the threat seriously, but don’t allow it to cloud your judgment. If you feel the need to acknowledge the threat, you can say, “We would prefer you didn’t write a negative review. How can we resolve this situation to your satisfaction?”

If the answer is something along the lines of, “Comp my charges!” you can say you’re sorry but you’re not at liberty to do that. Then offer an alternative solution that you can do.

The reviewer may be a lost cause, but if you feel the need to respond, you may consider saying something along the lines of, “Our recollection of this incident is quite different from how it is described here. We feel we acted reasonably under the circumstances, and while we wish the outcome had been different, we stand by the decision.”

Be respectful in your response, and avoid “he said, she said” banter. Another option is to simply remain silent and let the readers draw their own conclusions. If your reputation is otherwise positive, then customers aren’t likely to be easily dissuaded. 

Remember, more clients are good than bad, and many nightmare scenarios can be avoided before the project even starts, through clear communication and awareness of “red flags”.

Have you dealt with a nightmare client? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.

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