Don’t Fight Fire with Fire
Dealing with Angry Clients
There’s probably very little that will stress a practitioner more than an angry client. You know the type: red face, veins popping out all over, fist pounding on the desk. Oh, the joys of being in practice or an owner of any business, for that matter. It makes you want to quit and go home- to heck with it all!
The Secret to Deal with Angry Clients
So, what’s the secret to dealing with such a client? I suppose everyone has their way of dealing with it. For me, I rely greatly on the power of listening. Don’t fight fire with fire. Nothing takes the wind out of an angry person’s sail than to be heard and being told they’re right. Listening may be easy but what if they’re not right? Chances are, there is probably some truth in what they’re saying and they’re probably right for being mad. Problem is, they might not be mad at the right person.
I must say that I’ve become so good at dealing with an angry client that I now welcome the challenge: to see if I can turn this very upset client into a happy one. Most of the time, saying almost nothing, asking questions, and letting them vent all their frustrations before you begin talking is very effective.
Pay attention to your Body Language
Be very careful not to defend yourself as defense tends to anger the opponent; it’s better to explain. And the problem is, defending and explaining are often quasi identical. The difference between the two is, in part, the tone of voice used when speaking and the selection of words used to express your thoughts. These are not skills easily mastered and it comes more naturally for some than others. It sure didn’t come naturally to me and anyone who knows me will tell you I tend to speak my mind. It is because I’ve struggled with it in the past that I believe everyone has the ability to get better at this skill.
Be sure to provide a solution. You may find that a very small gesture on your part will go a very long way at defusing the situation. Offering to correct a mistake at no charge, paying something back to the client, or reducing/forgiving part of an invoice are good examples. Be careful, however, in doing so that you are not creating a monster who may forever try to take advantage of your generosity by simply showing up angry. Your good judgment will be essential.
Most importantly, you likely know people who are great at defusing difficult people. Watch them in action and learn.