How to Handle Problem Clients (and the 10 Commandments of Customer Service)

by | May 30, 2011 | How to Become a Business Coach

Have you ever had problem clients in your business coaching practice?

You know, the kind you just can’t stand?

They’re always late. They always complain. They blame YOU for the problems they refuse to fix. They won’t pay their bills or they give you the runaround when it’s time to issue a check.

I want to give you full permission to fire those guys.


Your time is too valuable. Your mental and emotional energy is better spent working with the clients who can and will respect you and your expertise, and will see real results.

That’s when you have a decision to make:

Is the money they’re paying me worth the hassles they’re creating?

Your time is too valuable to work with problem clients. Your mental and emotional energy is better spent working with the clients who can and will respect you and your expertise, and will see real results.

Every once in a while, it’s fine to fire a client. It’s rare, but it happens. So remember: If someone just isn’t jiving with you, or if they’re abusive or otherwise causing you undue emotional distress, it’s okay to pull the plug.

Just keep in mind that if you find yourself doing this a lot–or if you’re getting fired more frequently than you think you should be–the problem is probably YOU.

The 10 Commandments of Customer Service

That’s why I developed the 10 Commandments of Customer Service to guide my interactions with clients.

I figure that as long as I’m following them, I can snuff out problem clients much more easily.

It also assures I’m not the jerk.

If you’re running into more than your fair share of problem clients, it could be that you’re inadvertently setting expectations in such a way that they think they can behave unprofessionally toward you.

So print these out. Hang them on your wall. Become obsessed with them. It will help.

  1. Don’t expect your clients to tolerate client service mistakes.
  2. Always do what you say you will do when you say you will do it.
  3. Never, ever make a promise you’re not absolutely sure you can keep–because promise-breaking is the same as lying.
  4. Never try to “remember” your promises. Write them on a task list.
  5. Remember that unacknowledged communication is a profound form of disrespect.
  6. Reply to every inbound email or phone call within half the time your clients expect you to reply.
  7. Review your task list before the end of each day to make sure you haven’t broken any promises.
  8. If it appears you absolutely won’t be able to keep a promise, renegotiate before the deadline.
  9. Always use auto-responders and voicemail messages to communicate your absence so you don’t appear non-responsive.
  10. Communication technology problems are never acceptable excuses for breaking promises–so be sure your technology and devices are working!

Note that almost all of the commandments focus on timely communication and promises kept. That’s because this level of transparency and responsibility creates accountability. Accountability creates trust. And trust is the most important component of every client-coach relationship.

Many times your problem clients are problems precisely because there isn’t enough trust between you. Sometimes it’s their fault.

Often, it’s yours.

So be rigorous and self-honest about how you’re doing. Commit to the 10 Commandments of Customer Service. Give yourself permission to let go of dead weight. Build that business through stellar communication and follow-through with your clients.

For more important strategies that will help you become the business coach you want to be, download our FREE ebook, How to Become a Business Coach.

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