5 Easy Ways To Deal With An Unhappy Client

By Alyssa Gregory
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unhappyAs good as you are at what you do, it is inevitable that you will eventually have a client who is less than thrilled with your work. Whether it’s from clashing tastes or if you’re just having an off day, it happens.

1. Address the Problem

If you know the client is unhappy, don’t ignore it. Ask them why they are unhappy and what you can do to fix the situation. The longer you wait to bring it up, the worse it can get. No one wants to have this uncomfortable conversation, but not only will addressing the issue put you on the path to resolution, but your willingness to face it head-on will tell the client you care about the project and their satisfaction.

2. Have a Do-Over

If it’s your work that the client is unhappy with, start over. Sometimes coming at it again from a different direction will align you closer to what the client is looking for. And make sure you ask the client a lot of questions to get a handle on the idea in their head that you are trying to match. A good designer is sometimes a little bit like a psychic, and asking the right questions will get you the right answers.

3. Get Help

Ask a fellow designer to take a look and give their input. A fresh perspective may help both you and the client see something new. Adding another person to the mix may also help if you’re dealing with a communication issue or personality conflict, and it can facilitate problem resolution.

4. Switch It Up

If the problem stems from miscommunication, try a new format. If you have been handling everything via e-mail, schedule a phone call to see if you can get things cleared up voice-to-voice. After the call, you can summarize the conversation and send the information to the client in an e-mail. This will give you an extra opportunity to make sure you’re both on the same page.

5. Move On

If you’ve done everything you can, but the client is still not satisfied, it may be time to part ways. Be honest, direct and professional. One way to end a client relationship is by recommending them to another designer who may be able to help them better than you can. This supports another designer who you respect, gives the client what they want and gets you out of a frustrating situation. It’s a win-win(-win).

Image credit: Angus Fraser

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  • ideamarket

    Good article. Re: point #4: we have two account managers here and there have been cases where if things go sideways with a client, we’ll have the other one take over. Sometimes that’s all that’s needed to get things back on track. Failing that, we have resorted to point #5, but the hard part here is who to hand the client off to. If they’re really a difficult client, we don’t want to pass that misery along to another designer whom we actually like. Maybe we need to start a list of designers we don’t like to refer difficult clients to…

    • That’s a really good point, and I feel the same. So many problems stem from miscommunication and personality conflicts, though, and if that’s the case, a fellow designer could be a better match for the client.

  • Morgaine O’Herne

    One thing I read on the wall of a place I used to work said something to the effect that;
    A customer who complains is a customer who wants to keep doing business with you.
    If they don’t want to keep doing business with you, they would walk away. Complaining means that they believe the problem can be fixed.
    This is a thought that stuck with me because it enabled me to put a happy spin on complaints.

  • Pacifer

    Complaints is the number 1 opportunity to create raving fans and improve your business. So embrace handling complaints.

    Few notice a well delivered product. Everybody notice a well handled complaint. It’s the moment of truth. It’s when you can show your customer what your company is all about.

    And few learn from success, but there are many leasons to be learnt from failure. And complaints give you insights into the failure. Because the customer is truthful with you and tells you how things are from his perspective.

  • vishal vivek

    A happy client is the best opportunity to show your interpersonal skills. Try to win him over and I am sure he will never leave you coz he will come to know that you value him or her a lot.