Signs Of A Toxic Client & How To Deal With Them

Clients are generally the lifeline of almost any business. So it should come as no surprise that a significant source of stress for any business owner is terrible clients.

Service providers will always experience these types of people. Fortunately for us, the numerous excellent clients we find typically outnumber the ones that drive us crazy.

We’ve all had our had a nightmare client we couldn’t get rid of fast enough.

These are the ones who bother us to no end, only to come up short when it’s time to pay the invoice. Or perhaps the terrible clients known for coming up with every excuse as to why they deserve more than what was initially agreed upon.

As a service provider, understanding the red flags for bad clients is valuable knowledge. The truth of the matter is that knowing what to avoid helps us save both time and money.

But what are those red flags?

And if you miss these warnings, do you know how to deal with a bad client?

In this article, I’ll talk about the signs of a problem client, how to handle them, and how to get rid of a bad client once and for all — without damaging your reputation.

Requesting special treatment

So you’ve just landed a new client, and they’re already asking for special treatment. This is a HUGE red flag. This problem client hasn’t even made an effort to forge a solid relationship with you.

Even with this being the case, they’re already asking to be treated as though they’re a favored customer.

Whether they’re asking for a better price, making demands that go outside of your scope of services, special payment terms, or something else, they’ll likely cause trouble at some point.

Do not change your practices to accommodate these requests. Your choices during the beginning stage of this working relationship will determine how far your client will try to push.

In my experience, if refusing to accommodate these requests results in losing a bad client, you’re far better off. Just make sure to be as friendly as possible when denying these extra demands in an attempt to keep them from bad-mouthing your business.

Bad talk about other service providers

Sometimes, a client might be justified in talking bad about other service providers. But more often than not, trash talking other businesses means the client is likely going to be difficult to satisfy.

Lots of times, the negative talk is a sign of other issues. The customer might be desperate, gossipy, or perhaps even a bit out of touch with reality. Regardless of which issue they have, working with them could result in problems for your business in the future.

Think about it this way — if they’re willing to talk bad about a service provider to someone else, they might try to harm your reputation down the line.

If you notice your new client has a habit of trash talking other service providers, try to find out what happened. Be gentle and don’t push for too much information. As the client discusses the past, you’ll learn about what you can expect from them.

You don’t see eye to eye — on anything

The onboarding process isn’t always easy, but as time progresses, you and your clients should come to an understanding. But if your client isn’t willing to work with you, expect some trouble to arise.

This isn’t to say you need to agree with your client in every situation. But it will become a problem if a pattern persists. Without an understanding of one another and the way you run your service, both of you will suffer. And in turn, your service might feel adverse impacts.

Make sure to handle this as soon as you notice the bad client trend. If you don’t find a way to get on the same page, you can always end things on good terms with them.  Just explain that your service is not the best fit for what they need right now.

Boundaries are never respected

The client is not in charge of your service. And just as with any other business, you likely have rules and a routine in place. If you don’t establish and communicate your boundaries, you’ll need to start.

Teach your clients about how they should work with you.

What should they expect? How fast is your turn around times? Are there work hours or response times they should know about?

Once you have a system in place, you’ll see when someone doesn’t respect the boundaries you’ve put in place. Clients who constantly push boundaries should be avoided.

These individuals lack respect for you, your boundaries, and your service. And as long as you allow them to continue, you’ll have problems.

Dealing with these kinds of clients can become frustrating at times, but it’s not impossible. One thing you can do is remind them about the boundaries. Explain that you want to remind them about the issue.

For example, “I’d like to remind you that we require 72 hours to complete each task.” Or for clients who can’t seem to understand your hours, you can say, “Our hours of operation are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST, so please don’t expect a reply if you contact us outside of that time range.”

Remember: Stick to the boundaries you’ve established.

There will always be people who don’t care about your boundaries. And if they continue to show they lack respect for you and your services, don’t hesitate to drop them.

The relationship becomes too personal too fast

It’s okay to be personal with your clients — but keep it at least somewhat professional.

Building a personal relationship with consumers is always ideal in the service industry. But there will be times when the relationship gets too real too fast.

When running a service business, being personal with the people you provide services to is a part of what you provide. But there is a line these individuals shouldn’t cross.

Whether your client is talking out of line or treating you like their personal therapist, getting too close to them can become risky. To avoid these kinds of situations, it’s ideal to highlight your boundaries whenever someone crosses them.

While these situations will vary, make sure you keep a lookout for these red flags. And the best way to ensure these clients don’t become problems in the future is to fix the issues as soon as you notice them.