5 Ways to Win Over Difficult Clients

You can probably list the difficult client behaviors you see time and time again as a home service professional. But you may not have an effective strategy for dealing with those behaviors. No matter how hard you try, some client interactions cause friction and have you stressing both on and off the job site. Minimize that friction with these tips for handling the most challenging client behaviors. Hint: It’s all about communication.

1. Micromanaging

Micromanager clients think they understand how the project is supposed to go, and they pester you when they think you’re off track. They ask why you’re starting in one area as opposed to another. They inspect the site when you’re away and question you about it later. So, how can you manage this relationship?

Overcommunicate: Even though your timeline and project scope is laid out in the contract, go over it verbally with your client so that they understand how things are going to go. Overinform them, but make it clear that you’re in charge and have things under control – and consider asking them not to interfere until the work is complete.

2. Helicoptering

This client isn’t trying to tell you how to do your job. They’re simply around, with lots of time on their hands. They’re talkative, engaging and hospitable. And while it’s nice to be treated like company, they can be distracting and slow your crew down. And they might even endanger themselves by hovering in hazardous work zones.

Set Boundaries: Talk to the client about how their presence might distract from productivity, and set guidelines for their presence on the job site. In most cases, they don’t realize how their presence impacts your crew. Once they’re aware, they’re sure to be cooperative because they don’t want to waste their investment or derail their own project. Give them no-go zones for periods of time, but also set aside time to interact with them – just on your own terms.

3. Boundary Crossing

You know your personal boundaries, and you certainly know when someone has crossed them. One big line that contractors struggle to maintain is the separation of work and personal time. It’s good to be available to your clients, but they shouldn’t be calling you at 11 o’clock at night unless it’s an emergency. Other common boundary violations include making personal comments, violating the contract, crossing into restricted zones on purpose, and being disrespectful to you or your crew.

Give Warning: The best strategy is to be open with the client when they cross that line. They may not be aware of how invasive their actions are. Give them fair warning that their behavior is not okay with you. If they continue to cross your boundaries, hold your ground and take measures to stop them, and let them know if they’re in violation of their contract. You are a professional as well as an individual, and you have rights to your personal freedoms.

4. Bargin Hunting

You shouldn’t sacrifice your own profit to make a customer happy – especially when they’re asking for an unreasonable price cut. The rate you’ve agreed to in your contract is a careful calculation of costs and overhead, and they shouldn’t take it as a light suggestion. If your client is asking you to “throw in” extras or cut your rate, don’t give in to satisfy them – no matter how aggressive or emotional their argument is. If you choose to give a discount, it should be on your own terms.

Show Your Worth: Help your client gain a better understanding of the value they’re getting from working with you. Let them know that your rates aren’t arbitrary, that their investment translates to high-quality work, and that you have the portfolio to back up your reputation and worth. Remind them that this is the rate they agreed to, and remind yourself that you deserve to make a profit.

5. Withholding Trust

Doubtful, distrusting clients are very common in the trades. Many homeowners don’t trust contractors and expect to be ripped off at every turn. And then there are those people who don’t trust anyone at all, and who expect to be ripped off no matter who they’re dealing with.

Offer Assurances: Before you get defensive, think of where your client might be getting their information and why they’re skeptical. They may have been scammed before and have reason to worry. Get them to talk about their experience and their perspective, and allay their fears by assuring them that you’re true to your word – and make sure to put everything in writing for both of your benefit. And suggest that the client call your references to back up your reputation for integrity.