The Difficult Client: How do you handle them?
What is the best way to handle The Difficult Client?
Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone we worked with was respectful, easy to get along with and never demanding? I don’t know any business where that is true, including the virtual assistant business.
Human nature is basically the same no matter what business you are in and what clients you serve. When starting your own virtual assistant business, you will want to plan in advance about how you will handle your more difficult and demanding clients.
The best way to handle the difficult client is to be prepared and to have your policies in place. You and your clients should have clear expectations about how you work, when you are available and how to contact you. Having your policies clearly defined in a contract is important for communicating with your clients, however, there will still be clients who are difficult and will push your boundaries.
Every virtual assistant business is unique in the clients and types of services they provide, however; I have found some common types of difficult clients you are likely to encounter.
“Last minute crisis”: Some people are very poor planners and tend to put things off until the last minute, therefore coming to you in “crisis” mode. I found no shortage of these managers when I was in the workforce, and I doubt you have either. Crisis people are in every business and they have no problem passing their crisis on to anyone who lets them. These people are either poor planners or adrenaline junkies, but regardless of why, you need to handle these clients before they run you ragged. Everyone has an occasional crisis and the virtual assistant that comes through in a pinch will be greatly appreciated. You just need to look for a pattern. If they continually come to you with rush jobs, you will need to train them that you cannot always accommodate them.
Once you build up your business, you will have more than one client and need to be fair to all of them – not just the larger clients. You can have a policy in place that charges extra for rush jobs, however this will not always deter the difficult client who always has an urgent “last minute” project. Often, simply saying no will teach them to plan ahead. I don’t mean to make this sound easy to do and no one wants to turn down someone who is asking for help, but you do need to teach your clients to respect your time and give you appropriate deadlines. If these clients are poor planners and you say no to a rush job, often they plan better in the future. Help them with planning by letting them know when you will be on vacation or unavailable for an extended period of time.
“Boundary steppers”: These clients still have an “employee” attitude and will treat you accordingly. They have an unrealistic expectation that you will always be available to them as if you were their personal assistant. You must train them to treat you as a business owner providing a service to more than one client. You cannot be expected to cater to them at the expense of your other clients. Again, having policies established which define what services you provide will help. Be clear about when you are available and what is the appropriate way to contact you.
“Critical Clients”: There are some people who are never happy with anything and your work may fall into this category. Of course when you are in business for yourself, you need to protect your reputation. You must provide the best quality work in the most time efficient way you are capable of to all clients – even the difficult client. If a client is very unhappy with your work, try to do whatever you can to fix the problem. If you have made a mistake, admit it and don’t try to cover it up. But if you find a client is just never quite pleased, you may have to suggest they find another assistant. No one wants to turn down business, but an unreasonable or disrespectful client will drag you and your business down. Sometimes you have to know when its time to move on.
These are not the only difficult clients you may encounter, but should give you an idea of the challenges you may have with some clients. Just remember even the difficult clients are paying customers and deserve the best customer service you are capable of providing.