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Challenging Clients are Good for Business

When faced with a challenging client, consider how the challenge you’re experiencing might be good for business.

In some cases, the very challenge you’re experiencing is a call for you to step up and do better work. When you do that, you can gain the loyalty and respect of the client who challenged you. And, in turn, you provide better outcomes for the rest of your clients too.

3 Types of Client Challenges You Need To Face Head-On

From my experience, there are three types of challenges: those around precision or accuracy of work, those around preferences and individual style, and those that are frankly a sign of a wrong fit. It is important that you, as a business owner, are able to identify which type of challenge you’re facing and how to overcome it.

There are three types of #client challenges: those around the precision of work, those around preferences, and those that are frankly a sign of a wrong fit. Read more: Click To Tweet

1. The Precision Challenge

This year, our team onboarded a new client who is a bit of a word nerd, to say the least. In the beginning, when our social media team was sending sample content posts to this client, they always sent them back with a plethora of changes and feedback. This client had very high standards for writing and grammar, and they challenged our team to write better – every single week.

While it didn’t feel good to be on the receiving end of criticism, and our team wanted to rationalize that the copy came from the client’s website, the truth was, we needed to do a better job.

This client shone the light on an area of opportunity in our business that resulted in deeper training for our team, focused on grammar and sentence structure. Since then, it has resulted in a higher quality of work for all of our clients. The challenge was ours to rectify internally, and the client had every right to be challenging in this case.

Your clients should expect quality work from you.

2. The Preference Challengecloseup of a pencil eraser correcting a mistake

Last year, another client was a different type of challenge. Their feedback was style-related, preference-based, and constantly changing.

A client might challenge you on their preferences and say, “I would have said it this way instead,” but structurally, the work you’re doing is correct and accurate. When this happens, you need to have a frank discussion about how to move forward.

A client who has constant changes based on their preferences can result in scope creep – when a project’s requirements tend to increase over its lifecycle. This can contribute to low morale within your team.

When this happens, you need to discuss the preferences with the client and come to an agreement on how to move forward. Your client needs to be able to trust you to deliver quality work, and not let preferences and changing opinions get in the way of you doing it.

Often, clients don’t even realize they are doing this, but when you discuss it with them (do this verbally, not via email) and show them specific examples, they are usually responsive and willing to work with you.

3. The PITA Challenge

There’s always going to be a client who is beyond challenging. It doesn’t matter what you do, how many conversations you have or what rules of engagement you mutually agree to – they violate them and are never satisfied. When this happens, be prepared to fire the client.

These clients are toxic, they demoralize your team, cost you time and money and are not the right fit for your organization.

Typically when this happens, you will try to please the client. But, after a period of time, when you see that the client’s behaviour isn’t changing, you have to step up as a leader and have a firm conversation with them. If they don’t change the way they are behaving, you need to cut them loose.

Challenging #clients are not always a bad thing. #BusinessOwners can learn from each of these situations. Read what they are here: Click To Tweet

Challenging clients are not always a bad thing. From my experience, there are many lessons business owners can learn from each of these situations.

You can learn:

  • How to improve the quality of your work.
  • How to have conversations where there is perceived conflict and find resolutions making addressing conflict less scary next time.
  • Who is and who is not a good fit for your business.
  • How to market better to clients who challenge you in a good way, versus those who zap your energy and resources.
  • That even when you fire a client, it’s not the end of the world.

Challenges are often perceived as a bad thing but they don’t have to be.

Put aside your desire to be defensive. Instead, listen closely to the clients who challenge you and identify ways to improve. And, as a leader, don’t be afraid to challenge them back.

Your clients are not looking for a “yes” person – they want someone who will challenge them too.

In fact, just last week a client of mine thanked me for continuing to push them, and for not settling because that type of challenge was exactly what they needed to get an even better end result.

Have you ever been challenged by a client? Which type of challenge was it and what was the end result? Let me know in the comments below.

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