How To Handle An Angry Client When They're Wrong

February 4, 2013

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The customer is always right. Except when they’re wrong, right? Dealing with angry clients can be stressful for all parties, especially when the client is wrong. How do you further your client’s interests without further infuriating your client?  The following presents a step-by-step process for dealing with wrongfully angry clients, and how to get them back on your side.

1.  Listen and appreciate

Strive to understand, specifically, what they are angry about and how they perceive your actions or a project outcome has negatively affected them.  Do not patronize your client; instead, simply listen and echo that you understand what they’re angry about, and how the situation impacts them.  For example, you might say “Bob, I understand that the final cost caught you off-guard, and you hadn’t prepared for it in your budget. Let’s figure out how to remedy that.”

2.  Offer explanations

After you have listened to your client and demonstrated your understanding, ask your client if you can offer an explanation.  Then present reasons why you did what you did; whether it’s a color change, a specific fee or a missed deadline because they didn’t send you necessary materials.

3.  Take ownership

Do not assign blame to your client, but do not accept blame if it isn’t your fault.  In most cases, you can chalk it up to a miscommunication in which no one has to accept blame.  Instead, tell your client that you’re willing to work with them toward a satisfactory solution.

4.  Solve the problem

Ask your client what they feel would be an appropriate resolution, then present your own suggestions.  Together, you can identify specifically what went wrong so you can avoid the problem in the future.  You might have to come to a compromise, such as a discount now in exchange for future work.  Make sure your client is 100 percent satisfied before you hang up the phone.

5.  Follow up

Follow up with your client after a few days to make sure they’re happy with the outcome.  Doing so demonstrates that you care and can also serve as a natural segue to discuss the next project, thus helping you retain your client.

In most cases, this simple five-step process will turn angry clients into happy clients.  If your client is completely unreasonable, you might have to cut your losses.  At the end of the day, you don’t want to work for clients who consistently blame you for their missteps.  That being said, it’s far easier to sell to existing clients than to find new clients, so do what you can – even if it means swallowing your pride – to accommodate your best clients to ensure long-term work.

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About Brian Morris

Brian Morris serves in various capacities as a freelance writer, content developer and public relations specialist for growing small businesses. When he’s not writing, he can be found on the racquetball court - usually getting his tail kicked by guys 20 years older.

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