Last week I had a client from hell. It doesn’t happen a lot, but it does happen.
She didn’t follow the directions I provided. She didn’t respect my schedule. She couldn’t make up her mind. She wasn’t organized or prepared to work together.
She was pretty much a pain in the ass.
If you are a consultant or run a service based businesses, chances are every so often you’ll have a client from hell, too.
As soon as I was finished with this client, I wanted to close my laptop and curl up into a ball on my couch, eating dark chocolate for two days.
But then I remembered a strategy often used on projects during my corporate days: the debriefing meeting. After a completed project we would all gather and share what worked and what needed to be improved in the future.
I decided to have my own personal debriefing menu.
WARNING: when you are a solopreneur or entrepreneur, consider your project review as a learning experience instead of a combination of client bashing and blaming yourself.
Take an objective viewpoint and you will glean some nuggets of information gold that will make your business stronger.
Here are some questions to ask yourself during the debrief.
Ask Yourself these Questions after the Client from Hell
How did your process contribute to your issues?
When my clients sign up for my services, they receive documents about what to expect next. Even before our project officially started, my client asked questions that made it clear to me she hadn’t even opened the documents.
Now, after the project I am reflecting on how I can ensure that important information gets read.
Some brainstorming thoughts about how I can improve my process: Make the documents prettier, deliver the instructions in another format (such as video), require clients to send back a sign paper or check something verifying they read the info.
At what point should you have stopped the behavior?
My client didn’t want to use the cloud storage method I requested. She didn’t provide the files in the format or naming convention I wanted. She wanted to have phone conversations lasting over an hour each instead of emailing me her replies.
All along the way, these were things that didn’t feel right to me – but I let them happen, anyway.
I had those common customer service thoughts: “the client is always right” and “do whatever it takes to make the client happy.”
I thought pushing back would just extend the timeline, and if I waded through the project her way I would be finished sooner.
The harsh truth is, I should have put my foot down sooner.
My takeaway: When something starts to not feel right, bring it up ASAP. Don’t wait until multiple things have happened before saying something to the client.
How did the client find you?
Was it from a specific internet ad? Did you meet this person at a certain networking event?
Knowing how the client from hell ended up on your project list can help you prevent future pains.
Further refine your marketing materials or message so you are attracting your dream clients.
My brainstorming ideas: Make it clear on my website FAQs who this service is NOT for in addition to who it IS for.
Clients from hell happen – hopefully they are few and far between. After bad clients, take the time to do a project debrief to figure out what you can learn about your business and yourself from this experience.