Tips to Deal with Difficult Clients
Work towards a better client experience and successful business with these tips
As wedding photographers, we put our heart and soul into our work. We work odd and long hours, take flights at ungodly hours and are always on our feet to make sure that our couples get the most beautiful memories of their special day. In a perfect world, the client will always be happy with our work, understand the contract and be satisfied with the deliverables. But anyone who has ever worked in client servicing or had to deal with clients will tell you that people are not always rainbows and sunshine. If you’re a wedding photographer, you’ve definitely come across clients who didn’t make things any easier for you. Difficult clients are an occupational hazard and are a part and parcel of our profession. The key to a good wedding photography business is working around that and finding ways to keep them happy and satisfied.
We’ve got a few pointers for you to keep in mind when dealing with a client who just can’t be pleased!
#1 Be patient
We know it’s hard to keep your cool when someone else is beating down on you. But if you take a few calm breaths, count to 10 and then respond, trust us, it’ll work out in your favour. At no point should you immediately respond to a complaint or a negative feedback. We understand that any form of criticism is hurtful. But keep in mind that it’s not a personal attack from the client. Keep that instinct to defend yourself at bay, and just wait it out. You will gain nothing by trying to reason with a hot-headed client. Wait for them to finish their rant and then proceed as rationally and calmly as you can.
#2 Listen to understand, not respond
Maybe the client’s point is valid, or maybe it is absolutely unreasonable. But you will only find out if you hear them out fully and try to understand their point of view. Do not interrupt them in between. Acknowledge their point of view. If they feel like you’re dismissing their issues, it’ll only aggravate them more. And, most importantly, don’t start formulating responses while they are talking, because then you’re not fully listening are you? In fact, it’s a good idea to take notes so that you have all the key points of complaint in front of you.
Once your client has calmed down, you can review each point and respond suitably to each, trying to find a solution to each of the grievances – the goal is to have happy clients and there is no merit in allowing a situation to get ugly. Even if you’ve done the best work of your career thus far, but the client who paid you for the job hasn’t got what they expected, then it’s not really a win. Is it?
#3 Don’t lose control
If a client is using inappropriate language, making personal attacks or screaming, don’t take the bait. Don’t engage in a screaming match with them and don’t play the blame game. It will not help if your behaviour and reaction starts to deteriorate as well, because there’s no scope for a resolution in that case.
If you’re on the phone, suggest talking at a later time. If this happens to you in a face-to-face meeting, offer them water and leave them to cool down. Walk away and give yourself a few minutes to shake it off as well. It can be incredibly easy to mirror their actions and blow off some steam. But how you respond reflects on you and your brand. Even if you were in the right, the client will only remember how you acted. Their re-telling of the story to other people will only paint you as an unprofessional. And you don’t need to give an aggrieved client more reasons to bad-mouth you, on social media or otherwise.
#4 Be polite but don’t back down
If you made good on your side of the deal, stand your ground. You might be tempted to give in if the client is particularly troublesome. But stay firm. If they know they’re wrong and see you holding your ground, they will accede too. Make sure you have all the facts in front of you when you’re talking and calmly point out that you’ve fulfilled all the points of the contract.
For example, maybe they’re asking for something that is not detailed out in the contract like extra albums or extra photos. Be calm and direct about the fact that all deliverables under their budget were discussed clearly and delivered as promised. But if they would like to add on some extras now (wherever possible), they can pay the difference and have access to more album copies or prints.
#5 Work towards a solution
No matter who was at fault, it is important that they walk away happy and satisfied. We don’t believe in the saying that “any publicity is good publicity”. As professional wedding photographers, we integrate into the couples’ families while we shoot. It is important to be seen as dignified, reliable and trustworthy; worthy of being allowed into the family inner circle. For this reason, your reputation as a professional should not be marred – only good publicity and praise from clients will do!
If it’s possible for you, throw in something extra – an extra post-wedding portrait session or a framed print. If a bride is not quite satisfied with her wedding pictures, a reshoot offer is redundant. However, you can offer to sit with her to identify what specifically she doesn’t like and maybe try different criteria for selection or a different style of edit to make the set more to her liking.
But don’t promise something or offer a solution you cannot deliver on just because you want them to calm down. It will come back to bite you.
Like for any situation, prevention is always a better option than the cure. Wouldn’t it be better if you took a few necessary steps to avoid a problem in the beginning? If you feel like there is a disparity between your offer and the client’s expectations, don’t hesitate to set them right in the beginning. Sit them down and make sure they understand the terms of the contract. Let them know what to expect in the budget they have decided. Interact with your couple, get to know them so that you can marry your style with what they want in the images. If you feel like it isn’t a good match and there could be hassles later on, politely decline the business. Recommend another peer whose style and budget would be better suited to their demands.
Despite everything, if the same or similar complaints keep cropping up from different clients, then we recommend that you take a good look at your business model and work system.
Even after you’ve done everything possible to avoid an altercation, it could still happen. So do your best and if all still fails, remember to let it go and don’t hold a grudge.
We hope these tips and tricks have been useful to you. Have any advice on how to better deal with tough clients? Share your experiences with us!