We’ve all encountered times when a customer seems difficult or demanding. Sometimes it’s a personality difference, other times a difference in expectations. Use these guidelines to help you in your design business when you must work together with such customers to meet a common goal.
In many cases of difficult customers, there are often charged emotions. The first step to working with an upset customer is to defuse those emotions — both theirs and yours. Until the customer is able to realize you’re willing to work out a solution, it will be hard to move forward. To defuse an angry client, try these steps:
- Show empathy
- Use a calm voice
- Provide a solution
Listening to what the customer has to say is a must. This may take a few minutes of your time as he or she explains the nuances of why they are upset. You may internally disagree with their reasoning or position, but now is not the time for discussion.
As you’re listening, try to shown empathy. If you’re in a face-to-face meeting, nod your head silently to show you are following along. Avoid closed body language like crossed arms or downed head — these give the impression you are unwilling to listen. Use open body language to convey approachability and confidence. If the conversation is by phone, make interjections like “Ok,” “I understand,” and “That makes sense” when the time seems appropriate. Be sure to use a calm voice.
Finally, once it seems the customer has cooled off, offer a solution. In certain cases, the solution you provide may not seem adequate to the customer and may cause another angry disturbance. Repeat the steps above if the customer becomes upset again. In the end, you may have to ask what solution the customer would like and decide if you are willing to agree to it.
Don’t Take It Personally
Sharing your creativity with customers often means your artistic works come under heavy criticism. The masterpiece you just unveiled may be meet with judgment, anger, disappointment, or dismay instead of the anticipated applause you expected.
Try not to take the disapproval personally. Remember that this is a business exchange and you’ve been hired to meet the customer’s job expectations. Besides, maybe you’ll present the same design plan to a new customer next week and they’ll immediately love it!
Discuss and Display
When it comes to design work, it may be a simple case of semantics that have caused you and the client to misunderstand each other. He said “turquoise” but really meant dark navy blue. Situations like these often arise when too much industry jargon is used or not enough visual examples. To overcome a misunderstanding work to discuss the issue with your client and display news ideas.
In the case of colors, present the client with a sample book showing the array of hues, tones, and shades available for web design. Write down the exact codes for the colors they liked best. Keep yourself organized by already having the exact web code for each color written on the back of the sample.
Design ideas can be a little more complicated to convey, but if you show the client many examples of a similar design you may be able to draw out the parts he or she likes and dislikes about each. Ask provoking and specific questions such as “Do you like the double stripe shown here?” “What do you think of the angled background?” or “Do you want the same green color as this? Lighter? Darker?” Then take lots of notes on their responses.
Know Your Limits
In the end, you and the customer may not fully agree on the design. You must know the limits of your abilities and never offer to provide more than you are capable of, despite a customer request. However, using the steps above, an agreement should be possible with the right mindset, patience, and time. Keep working together calmly to reach a viable solution.
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Photo: Sebastian ter Burg