The Best Way To Deal With Unhappy Clients

  1. Don’t be afraid to tell the client when you’ve done something wrong. Be honest, and communicate with the client. 01:44
  2. Don’t disagree right away02:40

Read the full episode transcript below:

00:29 David B.: Hey everybody, welcome to another episode of WP The Podcast, brought to you by WP Gears. I’m David Blackmon.

00:37 Tim Strifler: I’m Tim Strifler.

00:38 David B.: Today we’re going to talk about the best way to deal with unhappy clients. If you build web sites for clients, this is going to have happened to you at least once, if not many times.

00:54 David B.: We have the affectionate phrase in the WordPress development community of “certain clients are PITAs; P-I-T-A.” They are in the Pain in the Asses. Sorry, excuse the cursing, but it’s just the reality.

01:11 David B.: And guess what: there are times when you mess up, and we mess up, and we just have unhappy clients. I think that it all starts out with proper communication. Make sure that you are communicating with your clients very well.

01:31 David B.: If something goes awry, and you drop the ball and the client’s expecting something and you’re not giving that to them, and they become unhappy, you’re going to have to take communication to the next level.

01:44 David B.: My advice to you in regards to communication is, don’t be afraid to tell the client when you’ve done something wrong, and when you’ve fallen short.

01:55 David B.: A lot of people get scared because they’re worried that the client isn’t going to use them, they’re not going to be unhappy, they’re not going to get a good review. They’re not going to get money … Whatever that fear is, I’m going to tell you, the best thing to do is just to be honest, and communicate with the client.

02:09 David B.: Don’t try to make up a flub if you made an error. Tell them the truth. They’re going to respect you more for it. And guess what: a lot of times, that unhappiness is going to be turned into a happy client. Because they understand; we’re all human beings. Everybody makes mistakes. Heck, they make mistakes as well. And they just want to be heard. They want to know that you care about them, and you’re taking care of them.

02:37 Tim Strifler: Yeah.

02:37 David B.: That’s my two bits.

02:40 Tim Strifler: Yeah. Definitely. I want to come from a different angle, because there’s times when you might have done everything right. You followed best practice communication, setting expectations, having everything very clearly spelled out in the contract.

02:56 Tim Strifler: Then for whatever reason, the client is unhappy, even though you really didn’t mess up. You did everything right. Some clients are like that, where they’re irrational. They’re impossible to please, and it’s not really anything that you could have done differently.

03:12 Tim Strifler: But, now you have to deal with that unhappy client. I think some of the things Dave mentioned still absolutely apply; you want to listen to them, you want to let them know that you hear them, and that you do care about what they’re saying, and you want to figure out why they’re unhappy.

03:30 Tim Strifler: Then you want to do your best to fix it. Now, it doesn’t necessarily mean fix it while letting them take advantage of you, working for free or anything like that.

03:40 Tim Strifler: I used to work at a company called In-N-Out Burger when I was in high school. If you’ve ever been to California, In-N-Out’s all the rage. It’s the California burger joint.

03:54 Tim Strifler: In-N-Out is known for having phenomenal customer service. They make sure all their employees are capable of being really great in customer service before they hire them, and it’s something that’s a top priority.

04:08 Tim Strifler: They have a saying that the customer is always right. If the customer says, “Hey, I ordered this,” and you say, “No you didn’t,” well, then you can’t do that. You have to tell them, “Okay, we’ll fix it” type of thing.

04:21 Tim Strifler: However, there was times when someone would say, “Hey, you were supposed to give me five burgers,” but say I only gave you two. There’s people that would try to exploit that “customer is always right” mentality. They would basically try to steal from the company, and get free food that way.

04:43 Tim Strifler: There was a line, and so our managers would have to show us where that line was. Where yes, the customer is always right. But, if they’re clearly trying to take advantage of you, then that’s something different.

04:53 Tim Strifler: I think that can apply with web design, because we have those clients that they expect the world, even though they paid for a thousand-dollar web site, and they’re expecting you to give them $5,000 worth of work.

05:06 Tim Strifler: You have to figure out where that line is to where you want to keep them happy, but you respect your time and your expertise. And you can’t let them push you around and take advantage.

05:18 Tim Strifler: It’s not an easy answer; there isn’t a, “Here’s the line, and here’s what you have to do.” You have to use your best judgment because you want them to be happy. You want them to hopefully refer customers. But at the same time, some clients are impossible to please, and they’re just trying to take advantage of you.

05:35 David B.: We hope these tips of the best way to deal with unhappy clients help you. Head on over to our web site,; leave us some comments on this podcast episode, and let us know how you deal with unhappy clients. We would love to hear from you.

05:52 David B.: Tomorrow we’ve got another great topic: Should you be using sliders in your clients’ web sites? Hmm. Tune in tomorrow to find out. Tim? Until tomorrow, we’ll see you then.

06:05 Tim Strifler: Take care. Bye-bye.

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