5 steps to take when defusing an unhappy client

Defusing an unhappy client

Quite possibly one of the worst parts of contracting or freelancing is when you’ve put your best into a contract, only for the client to be upset or dissatisfied with your work. Clearly at some point something has gone wrong and, whilst it may not be you that caused it, you’re left to pick up the pieces and salvage what’s left of the working relationship.

 

Hopefully you’ll never need this blog, but should you ever find yourself in this situation we’ve devised 5 steps to take, to help turn the situation around.

 

Step 1 – Keep calm and carry on

A tough step to begin with, especially when your talent and professionalism is being questioned, but one which you must start negotiations off with. Remember that as soon as you lose your temper you’ve also lost your ability to argue your case, so keep a level head when discussing the issue with your client.

 

Let them tell you how they’re feeling and take notes, as this will help you to understand what the issue is and how to prevent it from happening in the future. By remaining neutral during this time you’ll also be demonstrating to your client that you’re willing to hear their side of the story, that you’re able to listen, and that you’ve remained professional throughout.

 

Step 2 – What’s the problem?

Whatever the issue is, you must get to the root of why they are unhappy. In this industry reputations precede contractors, therefore if you wish to continue contracting in the future you must make amends with your current client before moving on. After all, you never know who they may know or what influence they could have on you in future.

 

At some point during the contract your expectations did not meet theirs, so ensure you identify when and why this happened, and who the blame lies with.

 

Step 3 – Is there a solution?

If you have fulfilled your side of the contract exactly as requested and have no reason to offer a solution, then you must let the client know this at this stage.

 

If you have made a mistake, as we all do from time to time, apologise and offer a solution. Whatever this may be (rectifying the issue or maybe offering a refund) consider what value the client holds to you professionally, your reputation and whether doing extra work is worth it in the end.

 

Step 4 – Find out what they’re thinking

If you do rectify the issue, ensure you ask your client whether you have satisfied their expectations as soon as you have completed the work.

 

We’re not suggesting you grovel to your client, but once they believe the contract has been completed it’s never a bad idea to apologise once more. After all, you’ve admitted your mistakes, rectified the issue and then apologised – there’s not much else you could have done!

 

Step 5 – Learn from the experience

Now that the issue is in the past, it’s time to consider what’s happened, what it has taught you and how to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

 

Even clients can get it wrong sometimes (although we doubt they’re more forthcoming when admitting their faults!) so it’s worth taking a step back to see how this experience has made you a better Limited Company contractor. After all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

 

Have you dealt with an unhappy client before?

If the answer is ‘yes’, what tips do you have that helped defuse the situation? Share them with us, your contracting colleagues will thank you, especially if they ever have to use one!

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

Flaky clients – a step by step guide to dealing with late payments

Dealing with late payments – part two

As a contractor or freelancer, one of your main gripes will probably be late payments from clients. They promise to adhere to your payment terms and conditions, you complete the contract on time and then payment never seems to arrive when expected…

 

In last week’s blog we explored the steps you can take to prevent late payments and how to ensure your client is aware of your payment terms. In this blog we take a look at what you can do if you happen to find yourself dealing with a late paying client.

 

What to do if your client doesn’t pay on time:

 

1. Frustrating? Yes, but remember to keep your cool. Firstly, send a polite, straightforward reminder. Tell them you expect payment within 7 days and ask them to give you a date on which you can expect to receive it.

 

2. Phoning the client may mean you get paid more quickly. Whatever excuse the client gives (lost in spam folder, accidentally deleted etc), sympathise with them, as the excuse may be genuine. It’s not worth losing your professional reputation over. Calmly remind them of the due amount and ask them when payment will be made.

 

3. Keep a record of any expenses you’re incurring as a result of the delayed payments and share it with the client, so that they’re aware of any penalties accruing.

 

4. If there is a legitimate reason for non-payment, you may consider arranging payment in instalments. Depending on your circumstances, this could be better for you than no payment at all.

 

5. If your first reminder hasn’t had the desired effect, it’s time for another. State that it’s your second reminder, how much you’re due and how many days late the payment is. Make it clear when you expect to hear from them with a resolution and if you have included a late payment clause in your contract, remind them of it. If this clause has begun to rack up a charge, let them know the running total.

 

6. The Late Payment of Commercial Debt (Interest) Act (1988) was amended in 2002 to include fixed penalties in addition to interest. Make it clear that you will enforce this if an account becomes overdue.

 

7. If it’s looking like you’re going to lose out, your contractor insurance provider should be able to advise you on what to do.

 

8. If you believe there’s no hope of payment, you can get a solicitor or online debt recovery firm to issue a “letter before action” which threatens (politely!) to commence wind up proceedings if payment is not received in X days. This should cost under £10.

 

9. See the GOV.UK guide to late payment legislation for useful information on your options if you’re owed money.

 

And what NOT to do!

But before you do, read the following 6 steps, to help you keep your temper.

 

1. Don’t lose your cool! Remain professional however annoyed you feel
2. Do not vent your anger on social media – it could really damage your professional reputation

3. Never threaten the client

4. Ensure communication between both parties doesn’t break down

5. Don’t agree to more work with them unless payment has been made

6. And most importantly! Never lose your passion for contracting – don’t let one bad client put you off

 

If you follow these guidelines, especially those in part one regarding preventing late payments, you should not have to deal with too many non-payment situations but, if you do, we hope you now have the tools to deal with them confidently.

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.