How to deal with difficult clients

difficult clients

In the events and hospitality industry, dealing with clients on a regular basis is part of the job. Whether you are a planner, hotelier or supplier, your goal is to make clients happy and do your best to meet their demands.

At times, however, the demands become excessive and difficult to manage. This is where it becomes important to maintain a positive client relationship (even if it seems impossible at times), and do your best to keep the client happy while being realistic.

To help with this article, I reached out to some industry friends to share some of their past experiences. So, here’s a list of difficult clients and how to best deal with their requests:

Difficult client #1: The last-minute one

Example A – “We had an event on the same night that the Maple Leafs made it into game 6 of the playoffs. Our attendees were mostly in the sports marketing industry and needed to be at the game. Learning about this the day before, we had to quickly rearrange the entire event around the game.”

Example B – “A client asked to change the date of their recognition event three weeks before due to scheduling conflicts. My first reaction was to say “no”, but after looking into the options, it turns out the venue had complete availability and was extremely flexible in letting us change the date at no cost.”

How to deal: Make it work!

Sometimes, last minute changes happen that are out of our clients’ control and we need to do our best to partner with them and work together in finding solutions. Yes, this may involve extra work, creative thinking and QUICK planning, but finding solutions will make your client appreciate you even more!  Don’t be quick to say “no”, instead, do your due diligence and look at the options available. Be upfront about the possibilities, and be clear on their expectations as well as cost implications.

Difficult client #2: The indecisive one

Example A – “We were asked to source items for a delegate bag (the branded bag, contents inside, stuffing, etc.) and were told two days before that they would no longer be doing the delegate bags.”

Example B – “We spent hours and days putting multiple proposals together for a client who couldn’t make up their mind. They would finally make a decision only to change their mind again and we would have to start from scratch!”

difficult clients

How to deal: Be a step ahead

It’s extremely frustrating to put in hours of work that go to waste. Sometimes the only implication is time spent doing the research, while other times may also involve cost implications. In this case, it is best to stay a step ahead of the client by maintaining open communication, anticipating their needs, and re-confirming all details as many times as needed. Create a sense of urgency by putting a timeline on certain decisions and make them aware of any cost implications if the decision is delayed.

Difficult client #3: The cost-conscious one

Example A – “A client wanted me to stay on a strict budget. We negotiated everything we could to meet the number but they kept adding last-minute things. They added an extra meeting room, Wi-Fi access, additional AV capabilities and a photo booth. At the time, they didn’t seem phased by the individual price increases, but once they saw the final bill they were surprised because it was over budget.”

How to deal: Be transparent

Transparency when it comes to budget is a no-brainer. Letting them know the most accurate cost possible up front and advising how this will impact their overall budget is important. If possible, allowing them to see a full updated budget after every addition instead of the small amounts may help them see the full picture and avoid surprises down the road.

Difficult client #4: The diva

Example A – “A group required me and my entire staff to wear headsets so we could be reached at all times and be at their disposal.”

Example B – “A guest never want to see any type of alcoholic bottle/beverage throughout the entire hotel during his stay.  It was fine in the room, but became problematic when they went to the restaurant and other people were having wine and cocktails.”

How to deal: Be realistic

In the hospitality industry, it is our job to make clients happy. Some requests are so outrageous that they are borderline impossible. In this case, it is best to be realistic with what is and isn’t possible. Offering alternative solutions and being up front about WHY something is not possible will (hopefully) make the client understand.

Our industry is built on relationships, and dealing with clients from all different backgrounds is an everyday task for most. In order to maintain positive relationships, we need to find better ways of working with our clients and becoming a true partner to help them succeed.

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