How To Deal With A Difficult Client

Business Say No
Have you ever dealt with a difficult client?

Have you ever dealt with what you feel is a difficult client?

It doesn’t happen. Sometimes it really is the case that the person is just not nice.

We’ve all met people like that in various situations in life. It happens with work and it happens in our personal lives. Usually we avoid people that make our lives difficult in our personal lives. If you’re the boss and you’re dealing with a person that is difficult as a client you can do the same thing.

But let’s take a step back and make sure you’re looking at the entire situation before telling the client that you’re done. That may still be the end result, but let’s walk all the way through things.

Remain Calm & Nice

This is something I try to do. It’s difficult sometimes, but I really try on this one and it seems to work well.

In our world today so much communication is done over email and it can seem like someone is being out of line via email when maybe they really aren’t. But even if they are out of line it doesn’t fix anything to respond in a similar way.

It might feel good in the moment to send out a nasty reply, but nothing is really gained.

If you’re dealing with a difficult customer take a step back for awhile. Think about how you’ll reply and come back with a reasonable response that’s nice and calm.

It might just be a misunderstanding and your calm response could fix things.

If it’s an ongoing issue then the other items below will come into play, but it’s still important to remain calm. In our world today I like to think of anything I type as potentially being seen by anyone in the world. That’s email, text, etc.

Think about how someone would view your email conversation with the client and keep it cordial.

Identify Their Main Concerns

A good first step when there are issues with a client is to get to the real roots of their concerns. They’re frustrated by something and they might be frustrated because they’re not getting what they want¬†and they don’t know how exactly to communicate it to you so you understand.

Do some investigation on your own. Go back through correspondence. See if you can read between the lines of what the issue is. It might be that the client has a different expectation for what they should be receiving than what you expect to provide. That’s often the case.

If you still can’t figure it out setup a time to have a discussion with the person. It might get heated on their side, but keep calm and dig for their main concern.

Once you have that it’s a place to start to see if the relationship can and should be salvaged.

Figure Out What You Control

This is a big one. When a client is driving you crazy it’s easy to sit back and think that they’re being ridiculous. It’s easy to focus on what they’re doing wrong, but that is out of your control. You can’t control what they do or change their behavior. It doesn’t solve anything to wish that they would stop acting the way they’re acting.

Look at the situation from what you can control. Figure out how you can change the situation for the better. Maybe there is a step missing in the process that would fix the issue.

Awhile back I was frustrated that a client would always be behind on paying their invoice. I had to chase them down all the time, every month. They were frustrated. I was frustrated. Finally I dug into the situation from what I could control and I simply asked if there was someone else at the company that should get the invoices. They gave me the email for the accounts person and now the invoice is paid on the same date each month.

Simple, but I had to look at what I could control to figure out how to solve the issue.

Assess Situation After Making Changes

Once you know the main cause of the frustration and what you can control you can assess the situation and make a change. You can change the process. You can do a little more and do what the client is expecting. Make the change and see if the situation is fixed.

If it doesn’t get fixed then it might be time to part ways.

Part Ways

Sometimes it will come to this. Look at the agreement you have or anything like that and find a way to dissolve the relationship. In the end it might be best for both parties. It’s difficult to end a relationship, but if you’ve really gone through all the steps above and it’s the best option then go ahead and dissolve things.

Keep it cordial. You’re not Johnny Paycheck telling your boss to shove it. Keep it cordial. Explain the situation and where the issue is and how the solution hasn’t worked and you don’t see a good solution anymore.

The client may be angry, but it’s better to go through that now than to continue going through the issues.


It’s never fun when you’re dealing with a challenging client. It’s the nature of business and I assume it happens all the time to all businesses. It seems that the best businesses are able to go through a process similar to the one above so they can keep things moving forward. The good businesses out there don’t like to have things keeping them back and issues with clients can be holdups. If you’re in that situation work to find the issue, see what you can change and if that change doesn’t work then move to dissolve the relationship so you can move forward.

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