• Advice

How to handle a dissatisfied client

Have you ever had a client who, no matter what you tried to do to resolve an issue, was still dissatisfied with your work? Trying to maintain a healthy balance between meeting your clients' needs, providing exceptional customer service, and not wasting your time and energy can be a delicate, but not impossible, balance.

The good news is that the overwhelming majority of your clients will be pleased with your work. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't have a plan in place for the outliers. Here's how to be prepared:

What is your refund refund/return policy?

Make sure that your refund policy is clear. You can add a clause to your contract or include your policy in writing. If you sell a product, you may want to also include a return policy. Be sure to be explicit about who is responsible for return shipping as these costs can add up for you.

When you offer a time-consuming service, a refund policy can be tricky. If you're an editor, you can't recoup the time spent. As such, if a client is unhappy, the better option is to work with them to resolve the issue. For example, offer a printed or electronic form where the client can document the changes that they want. Documentation is not only archivalable, but it also cuts down on ambiguity and unnecessarily volleying back and forth.

Check the contract

Does the client understand what they paid for? By asking the client to express their concerns in writing, you'll be able to ascertain if their expectations are realistic and, most importantly, contractual.

While clients sometimes use dissatisfaction as an excuse to get services that they did not pay for, most will gladly work to address any issues.

Maintaining the relationship

Should you offer a discount on a future service? For many of us, word of mouth coupled with loyal customers have afforded us opportunities to grow and expand. The thought of having a colony of disgruntled clients out there may be disconcerting, so you may want offer some type of olive branch if the client's concerns are warranted.

I am not a big fan of offering discounts on completed services. Instead, you may want to consider offering clients a discount on a future service — one that will add value to the work so far. Thinking about future transactions also demonstrates to the client that you are sincere about maintaining them as a client and that you care about their concerns.

If all fails?

Being clear about your refund policy, working with your client, and offering a discount on a future service should help you make amends with an unhappy client. However, some clients will just never be satisfied. Be as proactive and prepared as possible, but also stand by your work, do your absolute best, and you will attract clients who appreciate you.

Tyra Seldon Tyra Seldon is a former English Professor turned writer, editor and small business owner. Her writing addresses the intersections of race, gender, culture and education.