How to deal with dissatisfied clients

Written on August 23, 2011 by in Business savvy, For photographers only

(c) David M. Goehring

It happens to everyone. If it hasn’t yet happened to you, prepare yourself. There will come a time when one of your clients is dissatisfied. It may have just been a bad day, you may have truly screwed up, or your clients might not be the right fit for you… Whatever the reason, now you have to deal with the situation. So, what do you do?

  1. Make every reasonable effort to ensure your client is happy. Take an objective look at the session. Are you happy with your session, truly? If no, offer a reshoot. Maybe you or they were having a bad day. If you know you can do better and you want to try, a reshoot could turn dissatisfied clients into super fans. However, if you love your results and feel like you already gave them your best, you might have to accept that these clients aren’t your “peeps.” In that case, offer them a refund. You can’t mold yourself into their ideal photographer and trying to do so sets a bad precedent for your future relationship. Note also that I highlighted reasonable above. A reshoot or refund is reasonable; offering double their money back or free sessions for life is not reasonable. You get the idea.
  2. If clients prove to be impossible, express your sincere apologies and walk away. Some folks are intractable and impossible to please. This says a lot more about them than it does about you, but more on that in another post. Not all people are your ideal clients. If you’ve tried to please your dissatisfied clients and they’re not responding or are still unhappy, you have to accept that and move on. You can’t change who they are and how they feel, and beating yourself up over their issues doesn’t help them or you.
  3. Learn from the experience. After you’ve taken some time to calm down, analyze the situation and adjust for the future. Were there any hints beforehand that these would be difficult clients? Take a look at the circumstances surrounding the situation — what they hired you to do, what they said they wanted, where they found you, etc. — and see if you need to make any changes in how you attract, educate or communicate with clients and prospects. Maybe one of your marketing tactics is attracting the wrong clients. Maybe what you say on your website is suggesting that you do one thing when you really do another. Maybe how you educate clients about working with you is leading to misunderstandings. Pause and reflect.

Although dealing with dissatisfied clients can be challenging, it is a blessing in disguise. Ever heard that you learn more from failure than success? Next time you have challenging clients, remember: They may be the the key to improving how you talk about what you do and deliver on your promises. So give ‘em a big old hug and kiss and then send them on their way. 

Have you ever had a dissatisfied client? How did you handle it, and what did you learn?


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