When Clients Misbehave: How to Vet New Clients Before You Say “I Do”

Find out what kind of clients you are working with by asking yourself the following questions early on.

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Most would agree that ultimately, business is about making money.

Money determines the future of your business. But does it have to govern every decision you make? Does the price make you change who you are and why you do what you do?

When I started Big Fish Presentations in 2011, our team of college students was excited to do anything and everything possible to make this company successful. We worked tirelessly to please our clients because we wanted to increase profits, expand, hire new people and do more great work.

As we continued to slave over our goal, a pattern emerged. It seemed we would take on just about any client, just as long as we could handle the workload and turn a decent profit. We thought we were invincible, that no matter how bizarre or terrible the clients were, we were resistant to them — thanks to great customer service.

However, this wouldn’t last long.

Certain clients pushed the limits of our time and resources with strange requests, indecisive direction and a severe lack of communication skills. Some even had awful attitudes as a bonus! It takes a lot of patience to deal with these kinds of clients; you’ve got to set aside your pride and vision to please a small group of people.

What to Do When Clients Misbehave

One day, a big-name client contacted us for a project, and of course, we accepted the challenge.

It was rocky from the start. They didn’t know what they wanted out of the project, so we had to interrogate them for details. They were unresponsive when we needed them and too responsive when we didn’t, and their attitudes were extremely negative. It didn’t help that their internal structure was disorganized — as was the feedback they gave us throughout the project.

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Despite continuous customer service and quality work, they just couldn’t be satisfied. It was as if they felt that because they paid us, they owned us.

We struggled for a while, taking nonstop and unreasonable requests from the client, and often receiving unnecessary hostility in the confusion. It was literally getting out of control.

So, after some deliberation, my business partners and I decided finally to “fire” this client; we just couldn’t work with them any longer. It was the right decision for us, and I’ll never regret doing it then or doing it again in the future.

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