Kryptonite Clients

Recently,  I had a conversation with a fellow business owner who was frustrated with one of their clients. I am sure we have all been there. The issue at hand was another last minute need that would require an excessive amount of time to complete before the weekend. Despite previous conversations about ‘last minute’ requests and the impact they have in terms of billable hours to the client and agreed upon deadlines, this client continues to make requests with very little regard for the business owner and the agreed upon terms of service.

To be clear, I am all for being a business owner that pulls a Superman move out of nowhere to help someone out of a jam. Client or no client, being a superhero and solving their issue just feels good and usually comes back two-fold. The problem with being Superman is that some clients start to expect it on a regular basis to solve their own inadequacies, (planning, preparation, or staffing). Superman is special because well, he’s SUPER! He acts beyond our human capabilities in situations that are extraordinary. He fights villains that the average human cannot. Superman has impeccable timing and can read a situation so well he predicts and prevents a negative outcome. If you and your business want to pull a Superman move for someone, client or no client, I fully support that. I think many businesses gain clients for being the go to person in an emergency because they were trusted and helped the business out of a jam at a pivotal moment. Here’s the thing, if you have to be Superman all the time that’s not SUPER that’s exhausting! Superman is special because he handles the special or rare stuff, not the everyday or every week ‘emergency’ that happens due to poor planning on the client’s part. If you are putting on your Superman cape on a consistent basis for the same client, that client might just be your kryptonite!

Here are three ways to handle the kryptonite client:

  • Retrain/Inform the client. Take some responsibility here and give them the benefit of the doubt. Suck up your ego and act as if you have not adequately trained them properly, or given them the information necessary to complete their work or to work with you and your business.
    1. If you have legitimate deadlines that they need to adhere to, re communicate what they are in as many different ways necessary to ensure comprehension. Send an email, later in natural conversation, make a phone call verifying they read the email, and when applicable, reiterate the deadlines through future communication.
    2. If you purchased a piece of equipment on their behalf and were responsible for training them on the equipment, offer a basic upgrade/retraining session and eat that cost. Ensure that they know how to use the equipment and that you have done your job as a trainer.

Both of these examples are clearing up communication issues and establishing a base line for the next two steps.

  • Re communicate needs and wants for both parties.
    1. Have a look at your contract/service agreement and discuss the content line by line. If your available operating hours for this client are 12-4 Monday through Friday and they need more, then that issue needs to be dealt with instead of both parties trying to work outside of the agreement and being frustrated. An agreement is only as good as the two parties who agree to follow it. If your deadlines are firm, for whatever reason, and your client can’t make them, then both parties need to deal with this and figure out a solution. If your business legitimately can’t move on a deadline, and the client needs a later date, than the client needs to find someone who can help them. That’s not a bad blood issue it’s an operational fact. Deal with it before offenses start to happen over legitimate working conditions.
  • Re establish boundaries
    1. Re establish the hours you are available. If you say I am not available between 8pm and 6am Monday through Friday, then they can’t expect you to answer any of the 8 phone calls or 12 emails they send you between 8pm and 6am last Thursday. On the flip side, if you say it, mean it and don’t answer or reply. If you answer the phone or reply to an email you are teaching the client that your boundaries can be broken. For so many reasons, that is not a healthy way to operate your business or have a work life balance.
    2. Re establish what your rates are for normal operating hours and emergency operating hours. If you are willing to be an occasional Superman you should value yourself as a Superman and charge for Superman hours. Remember, Superman only shows up in rare and extreme circumstances. When rare becomes the norm, what will you do?
    3. When boundaries have been broken and your client isn’t willing to respect them, maybe it’s time to fire your client? If a complete stranger got too close to you or laid their hands on you and you asked them to back up or refrain from touching you and they didn’t, there is a high probability that they don’t respect you and you need to remove yourself from their presence or call the authorities. In this instance, the indiscretion is obvious because it’s us vs. a complete stranger. When it’s a client who refuses to respect your boundaries it’s difficult because there is a relationship and financial gain attached but let me tell you, it’s the same thing! If you don’t respect your own boundaries, who else will?

To reiterate, I’m not suggesting we go out and fire all the clients who tick us off. I am saying when they do frustrate you, ask yourself why this is happening and then take steps to stop it. Frustration comes from lack of desired change in any given situation. It’s your business, it’s your future; if you want your boundaries to be respected, deal with kryptonite clients!-Dawn