We all know that you can be superb at your job and act with courtesy and professionalism at all times, but that this doesn’t always guarantee that you won’t have problems with clients. It’s a fact of life that some people like to be difficult, assert their authority, and try to bully people into providing goods or services at unfairly low prices. That’s not to say that clients don’t have a right to negotiate, but some certainly step over the line.
Can you Avoid Them?
Of course, the best way to avoid difficult clients is, well, to avoid them. However, it’s not always easy to spot who is going to be difficult; many people will appear fine but start to show their true colors once you begin working for them. One good benchmark of the difficult client is to ask them to accept a callout fee when you come to look at their job (many tradies will waive that fee once the quote is accepted). If the client insists that they are not going to pay a callout fee and want you to come and look at their job for free, that’s a pretty good sign that they are likely to be awkward further down the line and cause trouble about payment. Networking with other tradies can be useful in this respect as well: if you’re a plumber and you hear from a carpenter that they have had a nightmare with a particular client, you know to steer clear.
The best way of handling a difficult client is to follow a step-by-step process that can manage them and ensure you don’t end up out of pocket without having to engage in arguments or expensive litigation to get what you are owed.
Step-by-Step How to Handle Tough Clients
Step One to Handle Tough Clients
Firstly, make it absolutely clear to the client what you are going to do and what they can expect to see when you have finished the job. Difficult clients will often pretend that they are not satisfied with the quality of your work to try to bully you into either reducing your price or do extra work without payment. When this happens, you need to be able to point to a clear quote which says exactly what you were going to do, what it was going to cost, and how long it was going to take. Make sure that the client has signed off on the quote and paid a deposit; this makes it so much more difficult for them to wriggle out of their commitments.
Step two TO HANDLE TOUGH CLIENTS
Secondly, make sure that you provide the client with a precise timeframe for the job and if they try to push you into getting it done more quickly explain politely but firmly that you are not prepared to sacrifice quality or safety, both in your interest and theirs. If a client insists on asking you to cut corners, make them sign a declaration that this was their demand and that you advised them against it and that any future problems will be the liability of the client.
Step Three TO HANDLE TOUGH CLIENTS
Thirdly, one of the key tactics of a bad client is to try and divide and conquer: rather than speak to the operative on-site directly, they’ll try and get hold of someone higher up the company who may not know exactly what’s going on. Make sure that all staff communicates clearly and effectively between each other and administration and management, and as soon as any problem arises ask the person on-site directly; be polite and accommodating with the client, but never take them at their word.
Step Four TO HANDLE TOUGH CLIENTS
Finally, remember that you are the expert and you know what is needed to do the job. Don’t let a client force you into reducing your quote so that they can get a better deal and cut into your profits. They will often ask to see justification of your hourly rate, or what your supplier charges for materials. Quite frankly, none of this is any of their business. You provide them with a quote and it’s up to them to decide whether or not to accept it. Tell them politely but firmly that this is your price for producing top quality work, and if they want to go with someone cheaper and lower quality, that is up to them.
Difficult clients can often be damaging to your business, threatening to leave bad online reviews or word-of-mouth feedback around your neighborhood if you don’t give in to their demands. In the worst cases you can always threaten legal action if they make untrue claims about you, but nobody wants to waste their time and money, but nobody wants to waste their time and money on litigation unless it is entirely necessary. The best way of avoiding all this hassle is to learn to identify the warning signs of difficult clients and politely decline their work.
For more information on how to handle Tough clients
One of the problems you may face with a difficult client is that they will make spurious claims for damages, accusing you of either causing personal injury or damaging their property through your work. For this reason, it is essential that every tradie should have good public liability insurance. Visit Public Liability Australia to view a range of packages of liability insurance specially designed to suit tradies’ needs and budgets.