You’ve completed a project that should satisfy your customer’s needs. You worked hard to keep all of their directions and desires in mind while creating their voice-over or other freelance deliverable. After you send it to him, Mr. Crankypants promptly responds either with a call or e-mail to unload his unhappiness about what he received, and he is not nice about it! What to do?
Stay focused. Read or listen for clues why they are unhappy and above all else, smile. Don’t let Crankypants bring you down to his or her level. Be determined to remain positive during your interaction. If replying in e-mail, keep the tone of your message positive. When talking with them on the phone, keep a warm, honest smile in your voice. And if you’re dealing with your client in person, keep the corners of your mouth up in a genuine smile. Difficult? Yes, but so important to do.
2. Allow your client to do the talking and ask open ended questions to keep the conversation moving forward.
Everybody has an occasional bad day. Don’t stop Mr. Crankypants from opening up and expressing his feelings. It could be that he is unsure how to continue. Maybe a peer gave him super critical feedback and was strongly encouraged to unload on you. Maybe Mr. C. got a ticket on the way to work and your project was the first thing he saw when he sat down at his desk. When it’s your turn to speak, ask specifically what he doesn’t like. Collect as much information as possible.
3. Apologize to the client and validate their feelings.
One of the quickest ways to defuse a perturbed client is to apologize for what they perceive as the thing making them angry. Validate their beliefs. You don’t have to agree about the complaint, but let Crankypants. know that you understand his feelings, you hear what he is saying.
4. Continue to be neutral in tone.
Attempting to match Mr. Crankypants’ current, nasty disposition will not have a positive affect. Manage the situation so that emotions are filtered and information gathering continues. Using language that is positive or neutral rather than negative will a go a long way in getting to a resolution. Smile.
5. Look or listen for the main issue.
While Crankypants may be venomous in general about something he believes is not right, pay attention for the one thing that has him in tantrumonious knots. When you let him talk or respond freely, he will get around to expressing the exact issue. Take notes while talking to Mr. Crankypants on the phone and take a moment to sift through his words in e-mail.
6. Dial in your emotions.
When or if you find that dealing with Mr. Crankypants is becoming more than you can deal with, pause the interaction. Let Crankypants know that you’re looking into his issue and will need time to respond. This will likely give Crankypants time to chill and you time to gather your thoughts. Don’t become emotional because doing so will be the first step in loosing control of the situation. Remain emotionally intact.
7. Neutralize the offensive behavior.
While Mr. C. is making you crazy with stinky behavior, don’t let your building negativity show. Regardless of what your third-grade math teacher told you, two negatives do not make a positive in this situation. Continue to let Crankypants know that you understand why he is displeased.
8. Don’t take it personally.
As freelancers, we are very close to the work we create. We put a lot of time and creative effort into almost everything we deliver. When Mr. Crankypants is messing up your day with his indelicate attitude, try to remember it’s not about you but about the deliverable. That’s probably the hardest thing to accomplish out of this list of eight, but it’s important to compartmentalize your personality from your work. The attack is on your work, not you.
When you receive a scathing e-mail from a client who goes great lengths to define your skill or product as anything but valuable, the temptation may be to volley back a reply that is equally nasty. Go ahead and type out the response. That’s right. Create a new message and type away. Let that customer know you’re on to them. Make them feel diminished. Turn them to ashes with well placed inflammatory words and combustible phrases. Type until you can type no more. That’ll show ‘em! Now, the secret is that after you’re done typing, walk away and let the message simmer for ten-minutes or so.
When you come back to the message, find the key on your keyboard labeled Delete and press. The message goes to the trash along with your hurt, retaliatory feelings. You’ve gotten it off your chest and it’s time to take care of the customer with professionalism. Refer to the first step in this article and respond.