That’s it! After you have tried to harmonise, to reconcile, to adapt your communication, to explain to the customers that your unpleasant solutions are the result of their written demands that the additional costs were agreed upon in advance, you have only one desire: to say exactly what you think to them without any respect for the etiquette.
Working with an unprofessional and disrespectful customer is part of the reality of the business; we all have to deal with it. The obligation to deal with it is the more critical, as many of us want to grow our business or even in these difficult pandemic times need the current contract to survive.
So here are a few tips on how to deal with this pesky customer. Take a deep breath before you read this and try to stick with it… and refrain from doing the opposite.
You can disagree with everything about customers: the style, the culture, the strategy, the taste in clothes, etc. However, you have signed a contract with them and their payment pays for your salary, your rent and certainly other small things. And so remember that paying customers are customers who appreciate the value of what you deliver.
Whether it’s the cultural background, the fact that you both don’t speak your native language to work together (often business is done in English between people who shouldn’t be talking about serious things in that language), or simply the pressure environment that his or her own boss is pushing him or her into at the moment, he or she is acting this way. I’d like to think that the customers don’t get up early in the morning and say to themselves, « this one, I’m going to piss him off today. »
So only hear the meaning of what your customer is saying, not the way they are getting the message across. Never take it personally.
Despite the fact that your position is frustrating, do not lower yourself to their level. Stay professional and try to understand their fears, difficulties and be factual. On this basis you can always fend off the emotional attacks of your client.
Nothing can be more deadly than a lack of documentation of both your work and that of your customer. What happened, what was said or what was decided should be documented and shared with the protagonists of the project or discussion. In this case, following the protocol will protect you from unpleasant surprises.
There always comes a time when you would be ready to accept any requirements, just to finish that unbearable conversation. This is where the risk is greatest for you: when working with non-professional customers, be economical and deliberate in what you say and avoid speculation. Otherwise, you may find yourself stuck in an even worse situation, where you have committed to dates and conditions they wanted for a short-term reprieve.
Whatever the reason for the situation being what it is, there are always limits to what is reasonable and what you are willing to accept in normal times. If things are really getting out of hand, dare to set limits such as
This will certainly not make the customers happier, but it will at least help to manage their behaviour and create some sense of stability for you in this extreme situation.
Assigning actions to the customers and pushing the ball back to them can be an effective way to manage their behaviour.
You have tried everything, but nothing has worked. So re-read your contract; there is likely to be a clause allowing you to end the relationship.
Although this is the last step and the last option available to you, if the relationship is bad enough and the customer’s demands simply cannot be met, it is always possible to take steps to sever the contract or business arrangement.
Bad customers exist. They are time-consuming, energy-consuming and often cost money. They should be avoided at all costs.
On the other hand, non-professional customers can be managed and even educated. Always remember that your personal and professional reputation is never worth risking. Find ways to manage your client through clear documentation, accountability and strategic communication.