People Power – How To Effectively Deal With Difficult Clients

When starting a new job, you’ll be required to get to know a whole host of new people within your workplace and beyond.  In most cases, your interactions with these people will be professional and, may even lead to friendships. On the other hand, nothing can make a new job lose its glow faster than a difficult client.

Tough customer

Although you will no doubt work alongside people who are senior to you and who may, for whatever reason, try to make your life difficult within your own workplace, your company should have policies in place to deal with this.

 When dealing with a difficult client, not only are you not protected by your employer’s policies but, the client will be aware that he or she holds a certain kind of power – and will often know how to wield it effectively.

Stories of difficult clients range from those who are simply never satisfied to active sabotage and verbal abuse and, many employees on the receiving end can be made to feel powerless and defenceless against the onslaught.

The picky one

If a client persistently complains that a service is inadequate or ‘not quite what they were looking for’, try requesting a meeting to discuss how to better understand their needs.

 Often this kind of behaviour arises when a client feels undervalued or taken for granted so, by simply demonstrating that you’re listening and that you genuinely want to please them, their attitude may automatically improve.

The shouty one

Nobody should ever have to put up with abusive behaviour in the workplace from either colleagues or clients.  Shouting at somebody, either by phone or in person is a form of intimidation and, is often designed to provoke a reaction.  

Firstly, and most importantly, resist the temptation to shout back. As frustrating as it is, the moment that you shout back, you’ve lost the battle – and may even lose your job.

Hopefully, the client will, at some point, pause to take a breath, at which point, calmly advise them that you will not continue the conversation until they are able to do so in a calm manner.

 If the shouting persists, advise the client that you are ending the call and will be happy to resume when they are prepared to speak calmly. Make your manager or team leader aware of the situation and, if requested, put the call through to them next time the shouting occurs.

The sneaky one

This is the client you definitely need to keep an eye on.  The sneaky one will be perfectly pleasant with you and give no indication of dissatisfaction with your work – only to then approach your boss with a laundry list of complaints and issues.

When dealing with the sneaky one, stealth is required.  It may be that they quietly enjoy the idea that they have got you into trouble with your boss and are revelling in their power.  Turn the situation on its head by ‘mentioning’ to the client that your boss and yourself have been discussing better ways to serve them and that you’d like to go through a few ideas.  By turning their sneakiness into a positive you will, hopefully, discourage further incidences of this behaviour.

The demanding one

The demanding one is a client who firmly believes in getting their money’s worth.  Although usually pleasant enough, the demanding one will assail you with several calls and emails every day to ‘check how you’re getting’ on with their latest project and to helpfully suggest more tasks for you to complete in order to fully satisfy them.

This is a tricky one to deal with without making the client feel ‘unloved’ and so you need to tread carefully. Suggest to the client that, as you value their input and suggestions, a once daily, comprehensive, telephone catch up would be a great way of making sure you’re on the right track.  Should this prove to be too subtle, try gently advising that you are committed to putting 100% into their work and that the constant communications can sometimes be a distraction.

Although disheartening at times, difficult clients are, unfortunately, often an integral part of a job.  Unless the situation becomes extreme, try to deal with this yourself rather than constantly bothering your boss – clients are a company’s lifeblood so, instead of being seen as ‘the complainer’, show your boss just how effectively you are managing these people.   


We specialise in finding candidates their perfect internship. To browse our graduate jobs London listings, visit our website.