Having led a PR firm for 35 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some wonderful clients. They “get it” and, because they “get it,” you bend over backwards to help them to succeed. They are the reason you smile when you go to work.
Sadly, not all clients are wonderful. And many that are not are not bad people. For a variety of reasons, they are just difficult. I’m sure you know the type(s). Here are some guidelines for dealing with them so that you don’t go crazy:
- Determine the degree to which you can change client behavior. Understand that there are limits you should not try to exceed.
- No-win situations exist. If a client really wants to shoot you, he or she will. This is an unpleasant realization, but a very necessary one. And never forget that you have the right to fire a client.
- Don’t take client problems personally. This is the easiest advice to give, the toughest to pay heed to and probably the most important.
- Don’t let emotion cloud your judgment or influence the tone and tenor of your communications. This is a corollary to #3.
- Manage expectations: under-promise and over-deliver. It is difficult enough to measure the success of marketing communications. Don’t paint yourself into a corner at the outset.
- Don’t give the client a reason to be upset, particularly with small mistakes in areas under your control, such as “typos.” Also in this area, never surprise a client with a written invoice significantly different than anticipated. Call in advance to explain or, in a perfect world, keep the client advised as your work begins to exceed the scope of the assignment.
- Absence does not make the heart grow fonder. Stay in regular contact with the client even if you don’t particularly like him/her.
Finally, we always tell our people: “Remember, no matter how bad things get, at the end of the day you work for us, not the client organization. You get to return here while the clients are stuck in their own environment.”
What other advice do you have for managing in difficult situations?