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5 Strategies for Working with Difficult Clients

April 10, 2021 | Read: 9 minutes

Below, we’ve highlighted five strategies you can use to make working with difficult clients easier than ever.

If you want to provide a frustration-free service, then quality communication with your customers will help you achieve that goal.


We’ve also prepared The Customer Service Cheat Sheet! It’s your free guide on how you can turn frustrated customers into loyal fans of your service business.


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What exactly is a “difficult customer”?

It’s easy to jump straight to negative assumptions with this one.

We often think of a difficult client or challenging customer as someone who’s angry, irritable, or just downright rude.

Difficult customer arguing on phone

They can certainly be any one of those things. But, there are some less obvious pressures that turn even the nicest customers into difficult people.

For instance, a person might become difficult to deal with because of the type of work that needs to be done.

It could be an expensive and complex HVAC installation that requires a lot of logistical input, which is more stressful.

Or perhaps it’s where they’re based (like a distant rural area that’s tricky to access). Or it could even be personal (such as their financial situation). 

At first glance, these aren’t things you have any control over. It’s also reasonable to wonder why you should shoulder the responsibility.

The reason, though, is that difficult customers are still paying customers. Sometimes, these end up being the most satisfying jobs to complete though. Especially if you’re able to offer them genuine support. They will value the service you provide more as a result.

With that in mind, the advice below—especially our first point—is focused on strategies for improving communication and access to information.

There’s often more to a difficult customer than first meets the eye:

5 strategies for working with difficult clients:

1. Listening can help you deal with difficult customers

One of the most effective strategies for working with difficult clients is, simply, to listen. 

This can be a challenge, especially if they are being rude. But there’s no question that listening is an effective way to get to the root of their problem fast. 

By listening, you’ll find it much easier to help them if they can properly explain their situation. 

For instance:

Only by listening can you get the full picture to help.

While one hefty payment is more than they can afford, instead, it turns out the customer could pay via monthly instalments. This guarantees the fix can go ahead without crippling their savings and, you still get paid so the work can get started. Everyone is happy! 

Rather than dismissing the change in circumstance as “too difficult” or “inconvenient”, a new solution can be found. In this case, access to finance.

This might also end up being a solution you find works for other customers, too. 

For the example above, if sourcing finance is a viable option, it might be that a finance strategy becomes a part of your business model. This can positively affect how you approach working with other customers down the line.

At any rate, by listening to individual experiences, your business can react accordingly. You may discover new strategies, and more easily avoid working with difficult clients as a result.

2. Give your staff the tools they need to work efficiently

What’s the quickest way for staff to become frustrated?

When they can’t do their jobs—especially when it’s through no fault of their own! 

It’s a simple thing, but these days, with tech & software making everything from sending an email to booking a holiday easier than ever it’s important that our work can flow smoothly, too.

Toolbox

From dealing with customers face-to-face in the field, or speaking with them over the phone. Your service staff should be able to go about their day with as little friction as possible.

That’s going to be much easier if your business has a database of accessible information to support their work.

With such a tool, they can find the information they need to answer queries in moments rather than minutes.

Of course, when you do meet your staff’s expectations by providing them with the tools they need, it’s going to make dealing with difficult customers even easier. 

It could be due to job management software used in the office or a mobile app used in the field. These tools make the difference between one task flowing quickly into another. 

Without them, staff may feel like they’re banging their head against a brick wall trying to finish simple tasks. When processes run smoothly, though, staff are likely to feel happier at work.

When that’s the case, that mood will flow over to affect your customers, too.

3. Let customers access their data through an online portal

Strategies for working with difficult clients can also include online portals, to help them help themselves.

Known as customer self-service, it’s an increasingly popular approach that, in this case, means letting your customers access their data without having to approach you directly.

By using a customer portal, they can save your team from time-consuming admin and get the info they need themselves. 

You’ll no doubt have used this type of portal yourself as a customer. It’s where you can log in online to access your personal profile and find useful data. It could include your purchase history, invoices, and pending booking requests.

With a customer portal for your plumbing, HVAC, or electrical business, you can provide these same benefits to your customers. This means it’s easier for them to engage without having to pick up the phone or even send an email!

Much like your staff, one of the biggest frustrations that can lead to a client being difficult to deal with is when they’re prevented from resolving simple problems themselves. 

While no one should expect your customer service team to be live and responding 24/7, customers will at least expect (and enjoy) access to solutions that mean they don’t have to rely on you for that. Instead, with an online portal, they can solve these points themselves. 

4. Make it easy for customers to communicate with you

It’s a common saying that “time is money” and so it’s obvious why no one wants their time wasted.

When customers can interact with you easily, you’re only ever going to save time and in all likelihood, go on to earn more money.

That means that having a variety of ways for your customers to interact with your services is important. Whether it’s a phone call, text, email, the aforementioned customer portal, or even an online booking form, if your customer has all these options, you’re creating a much more efficient way to communicate with them.

Customers will respect you for respecting their time.

Customer database screen showing connecting employees

Besides, when it comes to securing a job these days, time is of the essence! If it’s not easy for a customer to reach you, Google will help them find a competitor who is. If you make it easy for customers to reach you—and thanks to tools like an online booking portal—you’re much more likely to engage and connect with them. 

The sooner they can reach you, the sooner you can confirm a job, do the work, get paid, and then move on to the next job.

5. Streamline the way you communicate at every level

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should rush through jobs at lightning speed (quality over quantity and all that, right?)

However, if you set up communication to be straightforward and informative, particularly thanks to automated messages supporting your staff, then you’ll find that the quality of your customer relationships will also improve dramatically.

For the customer, having a speedy, efficient process—like getting a confirmation a moment after they request a job—not only helps to meet their expectations but brings them peace of mind that they’ve been acknowledged and that their job is a step closer to completion.

From the moment you start handing out estimates and requesting deposits, it helps to have a digital software solution at your back: a paperless business is the way forward and will help you deliver an efficient, fast, and meticulous service.

Of course, sending confirmations all the live long day is both tedious and time-consuming and can mean that delays are more likely to occur. It’s a surefire way to frustrate customers, which in turn makes it more likely you’ll find yourself working with difficult clients.


Putting strategies for working with difficult clients to use!

When it comes to dealing with difficult clients, your team—equipped with the right tools—will be in the best position to deal with an angry or frustrated customer, and get to the bottom of their issues much faster.

You may uncover new methods that help your business in unexpected ways and it’s all thanks to a few simple strategies, backed up by powerful software. With all that data at their fingertips, it means no long pauses on hold, no waiting for days for a follow-up email, but instead, clear communication that gets the results you need.

Check out the Customer Service Cheat Sheet that provides step-by-step with expert-approved tips and scripts to manage even the most challenging scenarios faced by your business!

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I'm eager to tell compelling stories and share great advice that helps field service businesses to build on their success.

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