This article is written by Quin Hoskins. Having studied law and several science-related subjects at degree level, this has provided him with the perfect foundation to cover an eclectic range of topics in his freelance writing career. From the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs to countless travel sites, he is proud to be associated with companies and organizations that are definitely at the top of their game. The flexibility of his freelance writing business allows him to devote a significant proportion of his time to study and is finishing his last course – out of 6 – towards his LLB (Hons) this year. He is also an avid traveler and has proudly visited 40 other countries to date, with much more planned for the future.
Whenever we start working as a freelancer, we are brimming with confidence and keen to show off our skills to future clients. Each and every service we rendered is done with absolute pride, and there can be a slight smugness as we believe our work to be pretty well... perfect. However, alas, it is time to come back down to reality and acknowledge the fact that there will be times where clients genuinely dislike the service you've provided them. With this in mind, this article aims to offer you some constructive advice on ways to handle unhappy clients.
1. Don’t Panic or React Hastily!
First and foremost, as negative feedback can prove to be such a devastating shock, it is important not to respond spontaneously to your client’s remarks. Stage 1 just requires you to read through what they have said about your work entirely and then to go away for at least half an hour; to give you time to digest their feedback and make sense of it all slowly. Do not send the client a reactive e-mail back refuting each and every comment they made – this is the most unprofessional way in which to handle such a situation and not how you should operate as a person in charge of their own business.
I’ll bet you any money that in the time you have spent away from your computer you will already be starting to analyze the problems highlighted by your client more constructively and will be thinking about ways in which you can resolve the situation. This ‘time out’ really will help you to put everything together correctly in your mind.
2. Responding to Your Client
Stage 2 involves you responding professionally to your customer. Make sure you have thoroughly read all of the issues that they highlighted in their complaint e-mail. Start your response by apologizing to the client and stating that it is your intention to resolve the matter and as expeditiously as possible. Acknowledge the issues that were initially identified and inform them that these will all be addressed accordingly.
Believe it or not, but the vast majority of clients will not have enjoyed bringing the complaint to your attention in the first place. After all, they may feel that they have made a judgment error where you are concerned. At this stage, you are not living up to the expectation they thought they were hiring when the initial contract was first agreed. Follow these steps and use them as your opportunity to turn this mentality around and prove that they were, in fact, right to have instructed your service.
3. Dealing with the Amendments and Issues
Stage 3 will be when you set all other work aside to crack on with the modifications required in this client’s project. Refrain from procrastinating; it is imperative to deal with these issues at your very first available opportunity. By doing this, you will impress the client and help you redeem your reputation with them a little.
Make sure the amended work addresses each and every complaint that was raised by the customer and if there is any opportunity to supersede their expectations, for example, give the client more than they have asked for. Again, this will all help to restore faith in this customer where you are concerned.
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4. Send the work back to the client
Finally, stage 4 will be where you send the fully amended work back to the client and hope they will be happy with it. If the customer is genuine and not merely attempting to get away with paying you (this may happen to you from time to time), provided you have fully addressed all of their issues, they will be overwhelmed with the work you have sent, and this could still very easily result in a top feedback score.
Again, in your follow-up communications, make sure you are polite, helpful and professional at all times. No-one is saying you should be too over the top and creepy, but prove your professionalism and position within this industry.
5. If the Client Remains Unhappy with Your Work
If the customer comes back to you and states that they are still unhappy with your job, you will need to have a good think about your way forward in this situation. There are two options open to you, and the one you will choose will predominately depend on the way in which the client responded to you in their last e-mail. For example, do you detect annoyance and exasperation? Or was the client happy with the revisions you made in the last attempt and is merely pointing out how you can perfect project with further revisions?
If the client shows exasperation, unfortunately, a mistake has been made, and you are unfit to work together moving forward. You need to protect your future reputation, and this will usually mean biting the bullet and writing-off the work you have done on the project to date.
If the client seems to be onboard with the previous revisions, deal with the further requested amendments and make sure the project corrected for them. Having them onboard is the always the preferred outcome that you should be aiming to achieve.
In our proposals and cover letters we will always state that we are prepared to deal with as many revisions to a project as the client requests; however, in reality, you will soon come to learn that the stages set out above are far more common.
6. Don’t Flog a Dead Horse!
Over the years, I have had to deal with some complaints from my clients, and I am proud of the fact that I have always endeavored to deal with all of these professionally and as helpfully as I possibly could. There were times where I continued to slog on and on with more and more revisions for a client, and nothing ever seemed to be right for them: you will come to appreciate that some customers are simply like this.
On the whole, hopefully, the vast majority of your projects will run smoothly, and you really will enjoy working as a freelancer. Be prepared as complaints will crop up from time to time. See these as an opportunity to impress yourself with your professionalism and try not to allow them to cause you too much in the way of stress; after all, most things can be resolved in some way or other at the end of the day.
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