Difficult clients in the event industry are similar to tough clients in other industries but also have their own unique problems. A difficult client might monopolize your time. Others may demand outrageous services. Perhaps they are slow to pay or unable make decisions. Often times difficult clients in the event industry tend to create emergencies out of minor situations.

In the worst case scenario, your difficult client is all of the above. No matter the type, they drain your energy and are hard to work with.

Types of Difficult Clients in the Event Industry

Everything is an Emergency Client –  These clients cause a panic about minor details. They also take up a lot of your time.

I’m Not Sure What I Want Client – This person may constantly change their mind and lack vision. These clients can also find decisions crippling.

Know-It-All Client – The know-it-alls believe they know exactly how to do your job and everything about events. 

Constantly Changing Deadlines Client – This client tells you they have plenty of time before they need a quote but then decide they need it by tomorrow.

I Don’t Really Care Client – This very hands-off approach can be frustrating. It is hard to fulfill the client’s unspoken needs or expectations when all they tell you is they don’t care. 

Complainer Client – This client knows how to find a problem with everything and nitpick. You may find they often don’t know what they want, but whatever you offer is not it!

How Much Extra Will This Cost Client – This client is definitely keeping their tight budget in mind. They will remind you of this throughout the working relationship

When dealing with difficult clients in the event industry it’s crucial to take proactive steps from the beginning to avoid catastrophic scenarios and remain in control. Below are suggestions on how to deal with those tricky clients and keep your partnership strong.

Communicate with the Right Words

Using effective words can be a game changer when dealing with difficult clients in the event industry.  When you have a tough client it might feel like a miracle is needed to improve the situation. Always use clear and concise communication when conversing with them. Also be mindful of your words. Try to be empathetic and put try to put yourself in their shoes, it will go a long way. 

Know When to Say Sorry

You should always apologize when you are in the wrong. But sometimes in difficult situations, we say sorry when we really shouldn’t. This can come off insincere and even unprofessional.

An example we see often is if a client asks for a service you don’t offer you say “I’m sorry, we do not offer those services”. Instead of apologizing, try helping them “Unfortunately we don’t offer those services. However, I can recommend this vendor who would be excellent for what you need.”

Of course, there are times when mistakes are made and apologies are a must. Never use excuses and always admit your errors. If you’re late on a deadline you could say, “I apologize we weren’t able to complete the quote on time. I understand that this affects your timeline and I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience.” This reminds the client that you truly understand why they are upset. Taking responsibility and using the right tone in sticky situations like these can defuse client frustration and show understanding. 

Let Them Vent and LISTEN

You must let your angry client vent. Let them explain their frustrations. Show empathy, nod, and make eye contact. If you are on the phone make an agreeing sound to let them know you hear what they are saying. Let them vent as long as they need, do not interrupt them. Don’t argue either, just stay quiet. When the customer is done venting only they can you speak. Repeat what they have concerns about and show empathy. If there are solutions you can offer tell them. If there is not a solution or you disagree explain why in a respectful way.

Often times when you let a customer vent they will diffuse themselves! You will find they feel listened to and often are less angry after venting. Your client may also give you critical feedback. Maybe you have accidentally overpromised or painted a different picture in their mind than what they received.

If you listen you might uncover problem you didn’t see within your business. This gives you an opportunity to fix the issue so it does not happen again.

Under Promise, Over Deliver

In both social and business settings, promises are made for four reasons. Promises can be made to create a commitment, regulate and direct behavior, reduce uncertainty, and build trust. Kept promises are necessary foundations for maintaining and growing relationships. However, never promise anything unrealistic.

This is very similar to setting expectations. It would be unwise to promise a report to be in your manager’s hand by the end of the day if you have yet to start it. Even if you think you will manage to get your project done, who knows what might pop up. 

Avoid making promises for when you think you will have something done. Instead, calculate the time you believe it will take, then double that to give you wiggle room. Add even more time if you know you will be busier than normal. If you finish the project early great it’s a nice surprise for your client. If you want happy clients always under promise and over deliver. 

Worst Case Scenarios

While we hope you don’t have these issues often, it is important to know how to deal with a difficult client in the worst case scenario. If nothing feels like it’s working try these strategies to hopefully come to a resolution.

Poor Personality Combination

Like oil and water, sometimes certain personalities just don’t mix. There are times you have to do the best you can to make it work. Sometimes in large companies, you might have an opportunity to turn the situation around. If your organization has multiple account managers, you may want to consider seeing if the client would work better with someone else. If you switch managers explain to the client why you feel this new person would be a better fit for them.

Do your best to make the process as smooth as possible. If done correctly, this transition can show excellent customer service. The client will respect that you found them someone who is a great personality fit for them to work with.

Fire Your Client

You never want to lose a client. However, it is important to determine whether the monetary value is worth dealing with a very difficult client. There are times when you have tried everything and your energy and resources feel depleted. You find yourself thinking absolutely nothing will make your client happy. If that is the case, it is better to cut your losses and move on.  Saying goodbye would free up your energy and allow your valuable time to be spent working with those who appreciate your efforts. 

It is important to break up on good terms. NEVER burn bridges, the event industry is small everyone knows everyone. If possible, offer referrals for other companies and try to be as helpful as possible. You never know where your difficult client may end up working in the future. Therefore, it is important to keep everything kind and professional. In conclusion, dealing with difficult clients is never easy.

If you use these tips you will set yourself up for successful relationships lowering the chance of difficult clients. If you have your customers best interest at heart and really care you will rarely lose a customer. Remember, every client should always be handled with care.

Your goal should be to establish long-term, successful relationships with your clients. Use these tips and circle back to them often when dealing with difficult clients in the event industry to have better client experiences!