In the thirty years I have been an entrepreneur, There have been all kinds of lessons on client selection and management. The biggest lessons always fall back on the 80/20 rule. In this case 80 percent of profitability is usually driven by 20 percent of the clients. The other side of that is that 20 percent of the clients are the source of 80 percent of the problems.
My friend and associate Chuck Newman recently brought to my attention that if we are really being self aware, the problem is not the clients. It’s about how we are reacting to their behaviors (thus the title of this post). At the same time, there are certain kinds of behaviors that are triggers for each company. There are archetypes if you will, of client behaviors that are somewhat universal.
Problems with clients take many forms. Some folks are in constant crisis, calling at all hours. Often the biggest and most hidden costs are “difficult” clients. Some rant and rave and make your staff cringe, and some are just a plain old bad fit for your work and your culture. Regardless of whether the people are the problem or the behavior, . They dispute their bills, they suck up workflow time and resources, contribute to staff turnover. Your staff (and even yourself) will be more stressed out and prone to illness, suffer reduction of work enjoyment and eventually a poor reputation due to this pervasive problem. Identifying the types is the first step to managing your own reactions and processes when you encounter challenging client behavior.
To make the behavior more relatable, I’m going to express them as personalities. (all names changed to protect the innocent : )
“I Know Better” Brett: He knows your business better than you do and will tell you what your doing wrong so often, you wonder why he hired you.
“So Simple” Sam: Pumps you for endless details and answers while telling you it’s going to be the easiest job ever.
Emergency Edna: She has impossible deadlines even if you did not have other clients or a life of your own. “Should have been done already” is her motto!.
Wishy Washy Wanda: She is not responsible for the outcome because she is dependent on someone else for the final decision. This is behavior that is either indecisive or keeps changing their mind all the time. This behavior is driven by the need to be validated by others and avoid responsibility.
Berating Bobby: Always on the offensive, bobby is frequently irate, “yelling” in tone if not in actual volume, the client no one wants to handle.
“Too Much” Mitch: Mitch wants things that are really hard to get. He rarely sees how his own choices drove the cost up. Always willing to show you where you made a mistake in your billing.
You may have one or two characters you want to add here. The point is to get clear on which behaviors are triggers for you and your company. These are like reverse marketing avatars. Instead of being your ideal client qualities, they are the ones you want to be on the lookout for. You will want to develop processes and strategies for avoiding them. Also ways of managing them at less cost and stress to yourself and your team.
Matrimonial Attorney? Learn more about maximizing you profit and reducing stress by identifying and managing behaviors common in difficult clients by registering for our upcoming webinar Managing Difficult Clients