Take the stress out of dealing with difficult clients

Aug 6, 2012

Topic: Business, Client Relations
Time Investment: 6 Minutes
Suggested Product: Client Issue Email Templates


At some point in your business, you’ll have to deal with a difficult client. Maybe they have unreasonable demands and are angry that you aren’t bending to their will. Maybe they want everything for nothing and don’t value your work. Or it could be that they don’t like the photos you’ve taken.

If only you could just ignore them and let them go away, then business would be perfect. Unfortunately, that only makes things worse, so let’s talk about some of the most effective ways to work with them to resolve the problem.

Always be professional and don’t let your emotions get the best of you.

It’s only going to reflect poorly on you if you let your emotions get the best of you and you respond in frustration or anger. Take some time to cool down, get past the emotions, and think clearly. The last thing you want is to send an email that is overly steeped in emotion. It may only make things worse and more stressful for you.


Follow the P.H.O.T.O. method when responding.

This is one of the best ways to diffuse your client’s frustrations and resolve the situation. Not only will this reflect well upon your business, but if you resolve the issue quickly and professionally, they may even recommend you to their friends. It’s amazing how an act of amazing customer service can impress someone.

Here’s how you should respond:

P – Pay Attention
H – Have compassion
O – Offer an apology
T – Thank them
O – Offer a solution


So let’s consider the client who doesn’t like their photos and sends a disappointed email telling you about how they feel.

Here’s how you would respond using the method above:

P – Show them that you paid attention to what they wrote by explaining what you understand their problem to be. If they call, all you really have to do is be quiet and listen intently.

H – Have compassion and say something along the lines of “I can understand why you’d be disappointed about this after all the time you spent preparing for the session.”

O – Offer a simple apology, such as “I am so sorry you weren’t happy with the images.”

T – Thank them for telling you. This goes a long way, because it shows that you care about how they feel.

O – Offer a solution, whether it be re-shooting or whatever you feel is reasonable. You don’t have to give in to their every demand (in fact, you may not be able to) but offer what you feel is an appropriate solution to the situation.


There may be situations in which you also need to explain why something happened the way it did that was outside of your control. For example, if the client showed up 20 minutes late for a 40 minute session and is upset about the fact that there are only half of the number of proofs you normally provide, you can still use the model above, but you may want to tactfully explain how this is the result of the situation.

But I’m not good with words!!!!

Sometimes you’ll be faced with situations where you know how you want to respond but you simply don’t know how to say it professionally or it’ll take you hours to respond well.

In this case, you may want to ask an objective colleague who is not emotionally attached to the situation to write the email for you. Another option is to check out our Client Issue Email Templates which will help you set boundaries to reclaim your sanity, confidence, and time when dealing with client problems.


Thanks to Jamie S. for this guest post

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