Clients From Hell – Should Their Customer Satisfaction Always Come First?

Everybody has them, horror clients who are often clueless, annoying, and sometimes even rude. There is plenty of proof that it affects all industries. For example, this website dedicated to some pretty cringe-worthy interactions. Everyone strives for customer satisfaction, but sometimes it can be near impossible to please the unpleasable.

Why Don’t They Get It?

That is after all why they are coming to you in the first place. Ask any tattoo artist who has to continually explain why the detailed graphic of an angel riding a unicorn won’t fit on your ankle.

This is not to say that these interactions aren’t frustrating, especially when you need to deal with them repeatedly. There are some things you can do initially to avoid client misunderstanding and provide greater customer satisfaction:

  1. Clarify the objectives
  2. Determine if they are measurable
  3. Establish timelines and milestones
  4. Create a communication process for further requests

The better planned and understood, the better the execution. This applies to both your deliverables and the client’s expectations.

Can You Turn These Circles Into Squares?

The design community is one who will no doubt sympathize with those who receive unruly client requests. It goes far beyond asking for a picture of a dog shaped cat or changing the color of the carrot from orange to blue. For a more in-depth explanation of this journey, The Oatmeal has animated a scenario that they regularly witness.

There are some things that designers (and others) should keep front-of-mind to ensure these scenarios don’t become too ridiculous.

  • You are not an employee, you have been chosen by this client for your skill-set and previous body of work
  • Don’t take it personally. Sure, it’s your work, and you think it looks great, but everything isn’t for everyone, and you need to remain objective
  • Define the scope. You don’t work for free so avoid scope creep, customer satisfaction is the goal, but there need to be limits in place
  • Fire if necessary. The beauty of freelancing is that you have the power to terminate a relationship if it is not working, or other clients are suffering due to your time restraints

Clients From Hell

Should Horror Clients Receive Priority?

Bad clients can sometimes be good clients to have. Perhaps they are challenging you, making you create your best work, they may even be bringing you a lot of business. There is always the risk of losing a client to someone else who is more willing to deal with their complicated requests.

The main thing to remember is that difficult clients should never detract from the quality of work you give to all of your clients. Don’t sacrifice other deadlines or provide a lower quality of work just to keep horror clients happy.

What Makes Bad Clients Bad?

Some of the reasons why clients become horror clients can be identified early on. You may want to keep this in mind to avoid the situation altogether:

  • They claim they can delegate responsibility, but don’t. Micro-management is recipe number one for horror clients
  • They don’t understand anything about the product or service you are offering
  • They misunderstand your process
  • The brief fails to detail expectations and objectives
  • They want an exact copy of what their successful competitors have
  • They think that technology has made your job easier, so things can be delivered or altered overnight

Avoid Being a Bad Client

If you want to avoid being one of the cases this blog is about, it’s very simple.

Two Rules in Fact:

  1. Understand your expectation and make your request realistic
  2. Trust in the service provider

If you are hiring a professional to do a better job than you can, let them do what you are paying for.

It’s All Part of the Fun

You can put a process in place to try and avoid them, and let them go if it becomes a problem, but horror clients are part of the job. As long as you do your best work and strive for excellent customer satisfaction, the rest is great for dinner stories. As Mike Monteiro, design director of Mule Design once said: “Client feedback has a way of taking you to places you never dreamed you’d go.”

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Author avatar
Luke Carlino
A writer of as many well-strung words for clients as for creatively paced song lyrics. Currently re-learning to skateboard in the mid-30s which may or may not be cool.

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