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How to treat clients who treat you poorly

If you’re a business owner, in any service position or even trying to help someone find a product, you may have dealt with disrespectful people. It’s not a new phenomenon. Unfortunately, there will always be difficult people in the world. So when they hire you and treat you poorly, what should you do about it?

Here are 4 key steps to diffuse an emotional situation and ensure you’re treated with respect in the future.

I’m going to start with the hardest one to hear and hopefully move on to the easiest.

#1 When someone treats you poorly, it’s because you didn’t set the expectation.

You may be saying…well I can’t control their mood or I didn’t provoke them into yelling at me. You’re right, you didn’t directly do either of those things. But you didn’t set the terms of how you expect to be treated.

As business owners, we often think rude clients are better than no clients. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Bad clients cause stress and take time away from your creative process.

So be proactive. Be clear about how the relationship needs to go in order to benefit both parties. Set the goals and expectations in the first conversation. When those are violated (not if), you’ll have a game plan for dealing with it.

That brings us to #2, have a game plan.

Again, humans make mistakes. It will happen. If it becomes chronic now it’s a choice and not a matter of circumstance. Plan out the worst case scenario for treatment, goals, and deliverables. When a client violates one of these of your 3 scenarios, you’ll handle it like a rock star.

Ask the client about the best way to discuss any bad news. This will give you an idea of how to tell them about issues when there’s a setback.

#3 Diffuse rather than engage.

When the regaling starts, you need to shut it down! As a professional, you don’t need to put up with another person's horrible behavior. So call them on it. That’s right. They’re in your face and you need to take a stand. But instead of fighting back, firmly let them know you don’t deal with people who yell, swear or otherwise try to demean you.

If they can’t speak to you in an adult manner, they’ll have to find someone else to do the work. This should stop the behavior in its tracks. If not, you can say good riddance.

#4 Constantly undermining the process

Do you have clients who constantly pay late? Or move deadlines? Or ask for more than the original scope of work? And do they do it each-and-every-time?

Why do we continue to work with people like this? The answer is, you did not set strong boundaries. Remember #2.

You may have decided one time in a feeling of generosity, you’d let them be a few days late on a payment. This has now created a new pattern in the relationship. Your client now thinks they can be late all the time.

Again you need to take back control and set them straight. Explain why you were lenient and reinforce their original contracted agreement. Tack on some late fees for good measure.

Explain that any delay will cost more as you’ll have to push off finishing their project due to schedule changes. There is always a charge for a change in the scope of work, always.

Last but not least, if they continue to disrespect you and insist on not changing their ways, it’s time to end the client relationship.

Be sure to collect your last payment and move on. You can end the relationship by letting them know you believe your services no longer meet their needs.

Not every consultant/client relationship will be the best. By setting clear boundaries and expectations you can start every project on the right path. Clear expectations and open collaboration are the keys to any good working relationship!

To collaborate with Studio North about your next marketing project, fill out our contact form or call ​701-595-7300.

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