The Client Is Always Right… But If They Are Wrong?

Posted: June 10th, 2009

Personally, I like to pride myself in the fact that I really take care of my clients. Just doing the little things, such as communicating every step of the way on projects and doing high quality work, go a long way in keeping you, your business and your client happy. More importantly, clients also reciprocate with respect and usually nothing but positive things to say to you and others.

Recently, despite good services provided to a particular client, I had one that decided to suddenly send an email going off on how I messed up on a project pointing out to issues that were beyond my control or I had nothing to do with. Without going into details, I became enraged and reached a decision point: do I fight back with a scathing email and drop this client like a ton of bricks or do I bite my tongue and give in?

The knee-jerk reaction is, of course, to come out swinging. After all, if you are in the right, you have the right not to tolerate such disrespect and continue working with those that show it to you. But is it really the smartest thing to do? There are major drawbacks to “getting even” and ceasing all business with these types of clients:

  • You lose business
  • Any pending payments may be difficult to collect
  • There may be a possibility of backlash that can damage your reputation

Well, I’m proud of the fact that, for this particular client, I went through the following steps that brought everything under control without sacrificing my own pride nor losing the client:

  1. No contact for a day. Take a full 24 hours to calm down and think rationally and without communicating to the client. Giving in to the urge to send an immediate response stating your case isn’t the smartest thing to do, even if you are right. Remember, being right doesn’t always pay the bills.
  2. Respond with an email to contact you immediately by phone or instant message. Keep it to just that and no response to “get a jab in there.” Any grievance by a client is best handled by a phone call or, if a call is not possible, a session on the IM. The reason is that the client will most likely be calmed down and not likely to lash out.
  3. Talk over the client’s differences and be diplomatic. Being nice and calm helps the client be nice and calm, too.
  4. Explain that you will not tolerate future insults or angry emails. The key to this is be polite, acknowledge their frustrations and tell them, if any issues arise in the future, send an urgent email to call or IM you immediately.

This isn’t to say that all clients will be able to be dealt with in this manner. There are rare cases where a client could turn out to be a jackass, in which case, better to cease all activity with them (politely here too). The majority, however, who show a bad side of themselves are actually good people who are venting when a real person isn’t right there to speak to.

Its just up to you to set the rules when potential arguments are about to take place.

More on the author, Johnny Spence
Johnny is the founder of The Freelance Rant and a freelance web programmer with 8 years in the business. Have a visit at his company Oscarrr!web or see what he's up to on Twitter.

1 Comment. Join In!