8 Tips for Dealing with Hostile Clients

Have you ever had to deal with a client who is rude, disrespectful and aggressive? Have you been intimidated and overwhelmed and wish you knew how to handle them?

Here are 8 tips on how to deal with those hostile clients.

  1. Find the Calm

Difficult clients can be disrespectful, aggressive and downright rude at times. It will be very hard not to retaliate when they cross the line. However, you must stay in control of your emotions. Losing your cool will only escalate the situation. If you need to take deep breaths, chant “Goosfraba” or even step out of the room for a bit, do it.

When you find the calm in yourself then find the calm in your client. In a storm, there is an eye of calm. Okay, so usually the storm starts up again after but go with this picture. The emotions that are fuelling their rage can only go so far. Be patient. Wait till they have gotten all their feelings off their chest.

When you feel like the storm has died down, then you can say your piece…calmly. They would be much more receptive.

  1. State the Facts

When you get the opportunity to speak, always stick to the facts. Don’t try to voice your opinion or feelings. Explain your rationale with your supporting evidence.

It would be beneficial if you always have your contract, an agenda and any other paperwork with you before you meet with your client. That way, if things get out of hand, your information will back up your standpoint. It will help you establish control.

  1. Acknowledge Their Feelings

Even if you feel like your client’s behavior is uncalled for, don’t dismiss their feelings. This will only anger the beast. This means that you have to control your body language too. You could be giving non-verbal, dismissive cues. Rolling your eyes, frowning or folding your arms will enrage your client more.

Instead, try to acknowledge what they are feeling. Use statements such as “I understand that this is causing you stress” or “I know that this is very important to you and you are worried about the outcome”. This acknowledgment can sometimes pacify a hostile client.

  1. Try to Identify the Valid Points

As an experienced planner, you also have to be an active listener. You know that there are times where your client’s anger is coming from a very real concern. Don’t wait for a moment to give a retort, make the effort to find the underlying reason for their reactions.

Was there a misunderstanding of what you agreed on? Did they feel disappointed by something? Were their expectations not met? Were your initial guarantees miscommunicated?

Listen carefully and you may find some valid points that can help you improve your service.

  1. Find Common Ground

If you are listening, then you should be able to find some common ground with your client. Dwelling on everything you disagree on will only frustrate you and your client.

It is in your best interest to find a mutually beneficial solution. Your success is hinged upon your client’s success. Reassure them that you are there to help them achieve this and remind them why they wanted to work with you.

Your client’s anger can be quelled if he feels a sense of empathy and understanding from you.

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  1. Take a Time Out

There are times when continuing the conservation will keep you both spiraling downwards. Recognize when you have hit a wall. Suggest to your client that maybe you both need to take a time out. You can regroup and continue the conversation at another time.

If necessary, you can put your client on temporary probation until they can be calm enough to discuss concerns with you rationally. Explain that you don’t want the relationship to end but you would not be able to do business with them if they are being rude to you and your employees.

  1. Establish Ground Rules

The next time you meet with your client, you need to establish some ground rules. Explain to them why you were uncomfortable. Express how you would prefer any disagreements to be addressed. Both you and your client should agree to the rules. Make it clear that the rules apply to both sides.

The rules don’t have to be too elaborate. They can be the principles you would like to do business with – respect, communication, professionalism, honesty, etc.

You can also use the opportunity to establish a plan for the way forward to keep the momentum.

  1. Make an Exit

But if tips 1-7 don’t seem to work, then you are within your rights to take more than just a time out. Some client-planner relationships are just not meant to be so don’t force it. If your client is hostile to you and your employees on more than one occasion, then you should end the relationship.

Most times, hostile clients end up costing you more time and money. It’s your business, your reputation and your mental health at risk.

Don’t drag things out, it will only make things worse. Thank your clients for their business and send them on their way…in the most respectful way.

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It’s never easy to deal with a hostile client. We all wish we could view into a crystal ball to know whether a potential client will become the bane of your existence. But we can only know when we know. These 8 tips will be there to help when you do know.

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What is your best advice when dealing with a hostile client? Let us know in the comments!