In any type of service based business, you’re going to get unsatisfied clients…
Some clients set their expectations so ridiculously high that it’s impossible for ANY Photographer to make them happy… and this is where some serious problems can begin.
From negative word of mouth, to shocking reviews plastered all over the internet, a furious client can become a nightmare to your business very quickly.
Read on and I’ll show you how to diffuse these clients before they blow up, and ensure that you don’t get stung…
If you haven’t had a really bad client yet, then it’s only a matter of time. It’s a part of doing business and you should never take it personally!
Newer Photographers often take a really unsatisfied clients opinions personally and start to debate whether they’re in the right industry, even though they’ve had several dozen (or even hundred) clients who were extremely thrilled!
The Negative Impact Of A Crappy Client
A really bad client usually goes through several phases, and if you don’t get rid of the fuel to their rage-fire early, it’s very hard to extinguish later on.
Here’s how it usually happens…
Phase 1 – Smooth Sailing
Everything is going smoothly. They book in for their shoot, they’re pleasant on the day and you think that they’re a nice enough person. During this phase, you won’t be able to tell them apart from any of the great clients you’ve worked with before.
Phase 2 – The Complication
Often, the thing they get upset about is quite trivial, like you having the edited photos ready a day or so late… or maybe none of the shots of them holding the dog turned out well.
Sometimes the problem is that they just don’t like the photos as much as they’d hoped. Which is usually the fault of their over-expectation of what’s possible. A few edits in Lightroom/Photoshop and you might be able to make them happy once more, but if not then it’s on to phase 3.
Phase 3 – The Kettle Is On
You’ve probably explained that the problem can’t be fixed and they basically have to accept it (in a less blunt manner). This makes them really angry and they start picking at more and more reasons why they hated the service you provided, many of them are just to be mean and it might even get personal.
They don’t want to pay and the angrier they get, the less sense they’re making
Phase 4 – The Eruption
If you haven’t solved the problem by now, they’ve reached boiling point and their main goal in life has switched to ruining your business.
They leave bad reviews on any site that they can find, and the reviews are filled with dozens of lies that make you look like some sort of psychotic serial scammer. They go on Google Places, Yelp, your Facebook wall and even their own Facebook page and Twitter stream.
They tell all their friends and family about this horrible experience they had with you, making sure that they burn as many future prospects as possible in their rage.
A client like this can cost you thousands in future business because once those reviews go up, they don’t come down. The only way to get rid of them, is to bury them in dozens of good reviews!
So What’s The Solution?
It’s pretty obvious, but you need to resolve any problems quickly to stop them from turning into a catastrophe.
Do whatever you can to make the client happy even if they are being extremely unreasonable. It doesn’t really matter who is right, and who is wrong – if a client wants to slander your business, you’re the one who will pay – so swallow your pride!
If the problem is really impossible to fix, then the best thing to do is simply give them a refund. Sure it’s a loss of time and money, but the future loss could be MUCH higher if your reputation gets ruined.
Send A Letter
Once you’ve solved the problem and the client is happy again (even if you had to give them a refund), write a short hand written letter saying sorry for the trouble and inconvenience, and that you hope that they are happy with the solution.
It’s just a basic apology letter (even if you know you did nothing wrong!).
It’ll come as a total shock and most of the time the client will feel guilty for acting the way they did. A few of my students have said that their bad clients actually replied via text or email to the letter to say that they were impressed with the way they handled the situation and wished them luck for the future…
Bomb successfully disarmed!
Notes on the letter
- Make sure it’s hand written (printed letters seem less personal)
- Deliver it via mail to their letterbox (don’t use email or text message)
- Make it short and personal
Doing all this will ensure that any unsatisfied clients don’t turn into haters screaming on a soapbox, which will save you thousands and reduce a whole lot of stress and frustration in the future!
If you’ve had a bad photography client, let me know in the comments section below!