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HOW TO: Deal with an angry client during a meeting

Posted on 2021-11-26 05:00:00

The key is to pacify and then rectify.

Your client isn’t happy with the work your team has done and has called for a meeting to hash out the problems and hopefully come up with a solution. The client isn’t going to hold back on words so you better be ready to deal with it and have a way to resolve the issue.

It’s the dreaded meeting nobody wants to go.

Arghhhh but look at it this way, everyone in their career will have to deal with an angry client at least once (and maybe even more!). You can’t stop the client from being angry but you can stop the tension during the meeting from escalating if you know how to deal with the angry client.

The first and most important thing to do is to of course listen. Most of the times, when people aren’t satisfied with something, all they really want to do is air out their grievances and have someone listen and acknowledge them. Even if you don’t agree with half of whatever your client is complaining about, you need to still listen with an open mind. Because when does being defensive ever make situations better, right? That’s correct – never.

Here are more tips on how to deal when faced with that angry client:

#1 Keep your cool
Again, can’t stress how important this is. Like the saying goes, the customer is always right. In this situation, your client is always right… even when he is not. If that’s the case, fighting fire with fire will only make the situation worse and more often than not, your client’s frustration isn’t a personal attack and may be caused by more than just the fact that the project didn’t go as planned. Don’t take it personally and aim to address the entire issue by being the cooler head. At the same time, when you are remain cool, it’s hard for your client to stay angry for long. But beware that you are not smug in the pretext of remaining cool; that’s going to make your client even more angry and this time it might be personal because of your attitude.

#2 Let them vent
Whether it is 10 minutes or an entire hour, grin and take it in. Let your client get it all out, even if it means having to listen to some unfair opinion. There may be some truth in it and you can improve from there. Or there may not be some truth in it and you can then take it up later to offer your side of the story. The key is to make that effort to understand where the frustration is coming from so you can better resolve it.

#3 Acknowledge the issue
OK so now you can speak and the first thing you should do is acknowledge their distress. This is the form of recognition they are looking for so they know that at least you are listening and you will now work out a solution. Or if your boss is the one acknowledging the issue and then turning to you to find out what you think about it, do the same – acknowledge that maybe there were some shortcomings and then the next step now is to move forward with a solution.

#4 Offer a solution
Sometimes all you have to do is listen and say you’ll rework the project according to what the client wants you to. Sometimes, you’re expected to come up with a solution. That solution doesn’t have to be the one thing you need to do to make the project all better but it can also be buying your team some time to look through the project and then get back with a solution later. At the very least, your client knows you are looking into the issue and will expect you to provide him with the steps to make it better.

The big question is this: Should you apologise?

Tough one. We say yes if it is clearly your fault but word of caution: The client isn’t always right despite what the popular saying is. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of meeting expectations and unfortunately, you may have a client who is difficult to please.

Word of advice is unless it is clearly your team’s fault, don’t utter these words: “I am sorry.” Sure, it goes against everything we’ve just said but it also a safeguard for you and your team in case it really is a difficult client. Because when you say you are sorry you are admitting to faults that aren’t necessary yours.

The safer bet is to say this instead: “I understand where you are coming from and why you are not satisfied with our work. Let me gather the team together and we will take into consideration everything you’ve said today to see how we may be able to work this better. We will come back with a solution in a week’s time. Do you have any other concerns we can look into while doing this?”

Works all the time!

Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

By Mel Sim

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