Part of the work of being a practitioner is dealing with challenging clients. As with any type of professional service, we encounter clients who seem to always be unhappy, have unrealistic expectations, or are simply a wildcard.
We learn many valuable lessons from having challenging clients and these experiences lead us to establish better boundaries, as well as develop the way we approach our business – our professional fee, contract agreements, etc.
In the realm of the health and wellness industry, there are specific types of challenging clients which we are worth examining and understanding for us to determine the best approach to engage.
So what are the types of challenging clients we’ve encountered in one form or another?
1. The Know-it-all
They come for a session (either for the nth time or it’s their first) with the belief that they know everything. Most of the time, these clients are successful, high-functioning, and seem to know what to do to resolve their issues. It also doesn’t matter if they know little to nothing about a subject because they seemingly have the answer to everything,
Clients have access to a gamut of information just by typing a question on Google and this has become an emerging roadblock for a lot of professional services.
Clients who constantly approach us about a bad relationship or a physical ailment, but are resistant to action plans laid out for them, have been the source of stress and burnout for practitioners.
The impression that what we do is “easy” or that “anyone can do it” is a statement we’ve heard more and more. Yet, these clients’ lack of self-awareness (among other negative behavioural patterns) is the reason why they are sitting in our office.
What to keep in mind: Under the confident facade is insecurity founded on the belief that they are not good enough. They may also feel like imposters and are fending off the impression to remain in control of their put-together image. As they have an aversion to suggestions, presenting findings and recommendations as questions is often the best approach.
2. Everything is an emergency!
Clients who insist that a solution to their concerns has to happen right here and right now can be a toxic environment. If you are working with a small staff and they have to interact with these clients too, then they are also exposed to unnecessary anxiety.
The lack of respect for our personal time and space is a red flag which we can address from the get-go if we are able to spot the signs immediately. Calls during our lunch break or several emails, while we’re on holiday break, can easily become normal for practitioners. Before we realize it, we find ourselves overbooking our week to accommodate these types of clients.
What to keep in mind: Our bookings is something we can control. We can block off days of the week and can send email advisories to clients about upcoming breaks. Again, it’s about setting expectations and boundaries from the start. Cancellation fees and missed appointment agreements are effective solutions to avoid these incidents.
3. The Negotiator
These are clients who constantly negotiate their way into getting what they want – be it a discount on your professional fee or questioning action plans to make the process convenient for them. Their intention is to keep the status quo.
Reflective thinking is not their strongest suit. This behaviour is indicative of self-obsession and a need for control in order to keep the status quo. They benefit from staying in the same state which is why they negotiate. Try to uncover and understand the advantages they get from staying stuck. From there, we can find a more suitable approach to communicating with them.
With regards to negotiating about our professional fees, having the price whittled down to an amount that affects our bottom line is also a reflection of a client’s lack of recognition for our value, ergo, our work. This is in the same line when we deal with clients who question treatment plans because they simply do not want to do the work.
What to keep in mind: Hootsuite CEO, Ryan Holmes shared that finding a solution for a difficult client will often affect the business’ bottom line. If mishandled, we may end up without any profit for all our efforts. The decision to disengage with a difficult client is a productive decision that favours not only our wellbeing but also our business’ bottom line. We gain back more time to focus on clients who value our work and we have a period to breathe and find our bearings. More importantly, our integrity stays intact once we learn to say “no”.
It takes experience to be more aware of how we react to difficult clients. And even if everything else feels right but our gut is telling us that a client isn’t a good fit, then it’s worthwhile to listen. There are always more clients to be found who are worth our resources.
Being mindful of whom we accept as clients, staying firm with our values, and guarding over our integrity as practitioners are some of the best ways we can continue with our cause and live up to our true potential.