How to Identify and Manage Problem Clients

August 1, 2014

As designers and developers, we are bound to deal with different types of clients. Whereas most of them will be highly cooperative and understanding, others will prove a little harder to handle. Since the primary aim is to do business and make a profit, you need to be able to handle both types of clients.

During a consultation, you want to identify whether or not this potential client is a good fit. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether or not you want to take them on as a client. (Well, those of us who aren’t yes-men or women.) I’ve come up with tips on how to tactfully deal with the five major types of problematic clients.

The Micro-Manager

  • Position yourself of a person of value. Express how you work and let them know that you are there to solve their problems in the best way possible. However, this does not mean that you should let yourself be compromised by the client. When they propose impossible options, say NO.
  • You may know what your clients need. However, it may not be what they want. Strike a wise balance and give them what they want tactfully blended with what you know they need.

The Indecisive Client

  • Talk about objectives and goals and outline the steps taken to achieve them. If the client is the indecisive type, use this chance to give them what you know they need.
  • Techie speak and jargon may not be understandable to your clients. Speak in plain and simple terms that are understandable to them. Break things down using lists or visuals (like mood boards).
  • Take time to really understand what they need. If it takes lengthy explanations to get the client on the same page with you, take that extra time. Let them understand the options available and let them choose the one they feel most comfortable doing.

The Penny-Pincher

  • Point them to case studies or testimonials of clients you’ve worked with in the past.
  • Know your worth. If the person don’t appreciate or value your business, keep it moving.
  • Make deals, discounts, referrals, or even barter. This person might have a tight budget, but the project might be something you’re passionate about, or they may have a network you want to tap into through this project. Look at the discount as a cost of gaining access.
  • If all else fails, refer them to other places they can go and compare the prices with yours.

The “Add A Feature” Client

  • Make sure their requests are aligned with the overall goals you both set at the beginning of the project.
  • Focus on the big picture goals versus freestyling.
  • Don’t be afraid to take their requests and turn them into a separate project you can work on after you’re done with the initial project. Give the client an upgrade path.

The “I Need More!” Client

  • Start the conversation with them talking about brand positioning, strategy, and goals. Keep these top of mind for the client once you start having issues through the project.
  • Again, don’t be afraid to take what they’re requesting and turn it into a separate project you can work once the initial project has wrapped.

Now it’s your turn! Have you had a problem client? Share your experience with us in the comments!

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