7 ways to deal with difficult clients

5 mins readLast updated January 20, 2023by Kate Morgan

When working closely with others as a financial advisor, you must know how to deal with difficult clients. Though the vast majority of your customers are likely to cause you minimal issues, the rare challenging situations that crop up must be handled correctly. This article explains the immense value of client satisfaction and details how to deal with difficulty via seven top tips.

Why is client satisfaction so important?

For any successful business, regardless of industry, client satisfaction is imperative.

Businesses that adopt an attitude of ‘the client only matters until we make the sale’ rarely enjoy strong retention rates and are less likely to be successful long term.

It’s easier and cheaper in the long run to build strong relationships with existing customers, alongside aiming for brand-new customers. 

Customer loyalty is built through understanding and communication. It’s important to make the people you work with feel heard and valued, whether by taking feedback and making changes when things aren’t quite right or responding dynamically to changes in your client's financial wants and needs. 

 As you figure out your strategies and map out how to handle difficult customers, you must constantly be aware of the importance of client satisfaction.

The more dedicated you are to measuring satisfaction, the less likely you are to be surprised by clients who have become dissatisfied with your services. 

Customer loyalty is built through understanding and communication

7 best ways to handle challenging customers

If you can identify that a client may present a challenge down the line, you can take the right actions earlier, preventing any further issues.

This is the ideal solution, but it isn’t always possible. 

If you’re past the point of spotting the signs early, you need to know how to handle difficulties while maintaining your professionalism and reputation.

At some point in our careers, we all come across a client conflict, and when we do, we can turn to these seven tips: 

1. Practice active listening – In our busy modern world full of distractions, it’s increasingly difficult to listen to others actively and fully.

Researchers estimate that we now only remember 25-50 per cent of what we hear, but as a financial advisor handling client business, this figure needs to be much higher.

Some seemingly “difficult” clients just want to feel heard. Show that you care, lend an active listening ear, and see if you can get things back on track. 

2. Remain calm, no matter what – Professionalism is one of the critical qualities a client looks for in a financial advisor, and a lack of professionalism is a commonly cited reason why clients drop their advisors.

Remaining calm and in control when things get stressful can be tricky, but it’s essential. Protect your reputation and peace of mind by focusing solely on solving your client’s concerns and treating them fairly. 

3. Identify the issues honestly – If you’ve noticed something is wrong, but your client seems hesitant to bring it up directly, don’t be afraid to address it.

Remind the person on the other side of the table that you can’t make changes in the right direction if you don’t know what the problem is.

With honesty, you can open up a productive dialogue that creates the right outcome for both parties. 

4. Create a targeted plan of action – When you know why a client is behaving in a certain way and you’ve acknowledged this together, putting a targeted plan in place is essential.

On the one hand, this gives you something to follow and stick to. On the other, this will reassure and calm the client.

A written plan will also provide you with a paper trail if the client questions things or the situation worsens down the line. 

5. Try not to rush to judgment – At the end of the day, everyone is a person, and nobody’s perfect.

When dealing with difficult customers and resolving conflicts, it’s easy to write a person off without examining possible reasons for their behavior.

Consider how you can empathize before you jump to judgment or worst-case scenarios, and then consider how you might show a client that you care. 

6. Always reply promptly and clearly – Always respond to client concerns promptly.

Even with a million things on your plate, you must ensure you’re making every client feel valued.

A problem ignored is rarely a problem solved, and even if the solution you’re working on will take some time, you can keep your customer periodically updated on your progress and explain things clearly, rather than leaving them in the dark. 

7. Review, learn and readjust – Once a challenging client situation has been resolved, carefully review what happened.

Don’t just put it in a box and forget about it – consider things you could have done differently, preventative measures you might have taken, things that worked well, action points for future changes to workflow or contract wording, etc.

Let it be a learning experience that prevents similar issues from arising in the future. 

Stay on our site for more customer management advice, including a complete guide to getting your first client meeting right.

Content writer

Kate Morgan

Kate has written for leading publications and blue chip companies over the last 20 years.