As a contract attorney, you’re busy enough just keeping up with assignments without the complications created by demanding clients. Unfortunately, appeasing those demanding clients on a daily basis is part of completing tasks on time.
Don’t let headache-inducing clients ruin your day. With a few small shifts in both your routine and behavior, clients will respect you for the professional you are.
Responding to Difficult Clients
To prevent difficult situations from forming, use these seven tried-and-true techniques:
1. Document, document, document.
Before meeting with a difficult client, send them an agenda of topics you’d like to discuss. During the meeting, take detailed notes on everything that’s said. After the meeting, send them a recap of what was discussed and an action plan for moving forward. The more notes you take and share, the more likely the two of you will stay on the same page.
2. Shift to the resolution.
It’s inevitable that mistakes will happen. When they do, don’t spend too much of your time with the client apologizing for the mistake. Instead, acknowledge there was a misstep, then shift the focus towards a resolution. This will get the conversation moving in a positive direction.
3. Under promise, over deliver.
You’ve probably heard this one before, but it’s worth repeating. If you can have something done in two days, tell your client it will take four. When it’s completed in two, the client will be delighted by your focus and dedication. However, that’s not the only benefit. If you need the extra cushion for some reason, it’ll be there.
4. Take control.
Being proactive can save you plenty of frustration. Take the initiative in scheduling necessary meetings with clients. Send them updates whenever there’s something new to report. By staying one step ahead of the client, you can fulfill their needs before they realize them.
5. Stick with what’s in writing.
Some difficult clients will ask to tack on new services that weren’t written in the original contract. When this happens, remind them that you can do it, but you’ll first have to update the contract. This prevents two types of issues. First, it stops clients from flip-flopping on demands. Second, it prevents the project from expanding unless you’re paid extra to provide additional services.
6. Protect your time.
You’ll occasionally have a client who expects everything to be completed in five minutes. Others expect you to complete major projects overnight or during Thanksgiving dinner. The best solution: Be firm in your response when explaining what is possible. If it will take longer than five minutes, explain why. If you don’t work on Thanksgiving, make it clear that you are also committed to other responsibilities outside of work.
7. Cut your losses.
Some difficult clients are so emotionally and financially draining that it doesn’t make sense to keep them on. If you can afford to refund their money and end the relationship, do so by explaining you’re taking your business in a different direction. There will be one of two results: Your health will improve thanks to the removal of the stressful burden, or the client will change their ways. Either way, you win.
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