Dissatisfied customers upset about an issue are something almost every freelancer has to deal with sooner or later. No matter how professional or hard-working you are, you will encounter someone who gets upset.
If you’ve delivered the work and your client is not happy with it, please keep in mind that it may or may not be your fault, but that’s usually not the point. It is, however, important to act quickly and in accordance with your client’s wishes. Ultimately, your goal is to deliver goods your client likes. After all, there’s nothing more important to your business than a happy client, one who recommends you for other projects.
Remember you can’t make everyone happy but also, that it is possible to turn an unhappy client into a forever client.
Following are a couple of simple steps that you can use to turn a client around and help change that dissatisfaction into satisfaction.
1. Stay calm when dealing with an unhappy client
First and foremost, you should keep a cool head. Try to not get personally involved, regardless of your client’s anger and dissatisfaction. Stay neutral and be a calm listener, pay attention to what he or she has to say.
That kind of collected attitude will assure your client that you are confident in your services, and open to listening to their comments and critique.
Once you have shown that level of professionalism and kept a neutral stance, your client is more likely to trust you with his problem and explain it to you. This is when the next tip comes in handy.
2. Identify the specific problem that caused dissatisfaction
Identifying the problem at hand is the most important thing you can do if you want to salvage the relationship with your client. Don’t be content with vague explanations about what caused the dissatisfaction. Try to figure out exactly what worked out and what didn’t.
Put yourself in the client’s shoes and ask as many questions as you need to get real information and understand your dissatisfied customer: Miscommunication is often the cause of an angry client. Communicate and find out where exactly your expectations did not meet what the customer wanted. Only by understanding what went wrong can you fix it.
3. Offer solutions to the client
Now that you are familiar with the exact causes of the problem, you have to come up with a solution.
a.   Offer to re-do the project at no extra charge
You might need to fix a couple of details or maybe you have to start from scratch. That really depends on the situation at hand. What matters is that you show your client that you understand where you went wrong after talking it through with them and showing them that you are confident you can fix it.
b.   Offer to revise the work for an additional fee
Sometimes, the client will be unhappy or angry with the work because the initial idea of the project changed (often changes may come from management) and now the work doesn’t meet their goals. Here, it’s a different end-work than what you both originally agreed on. So, in those situations, it’s actually not your problem.
In this case, you can offer to provide a new proposal and estimate (you might consider including a discount) to the client – one that adds the new necessary changes.
If you find it appropriate, you can also offer them a partial or complete refund. In this case, remind the client that you’re making an exception as this was not what was included in the contract.
4. Get feedback
Should you get the chance to amend your mistake, you have to double-check with your client as soon as you think you have fixed the issue. In case you’ve identified the problem correctly by communicating with your client, you are likely to get a positive response in most cases.
Even then, try to exceed expectations by following up with an apology and possibly, give a discount on the next project. Any previously dissatisfied client is sure to appreciate this.
5. Learn from your mistakes
Once the crisis has been averted, you are almost ready to lean back and take a break.
However, there is one last step of utmost importance. Think about your project and the things that went wrong and try to use that information to improve your work. Ideally, you are aware of the specific problem and its cause. Regardless of if it was a lack of communication, a technical error or a time-management issue – make sure you learn from the error and try avoiding it in the future.
No freelancer makes it to the top without dealing with angry customers. Bettering yourself by utilizing the experience from your past is crucial for success. So learning from the experience is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your freelance career. Always keep in mind: No client is like the other. Different client types need different treatments. But if you understand how to satisfy your clients, your relationship will surely lead to long-term freelance projects!
If you’re still not sure where to start your freelancing journey, why not check out Rtist? We have one of the biggest creative talent communities in Malaysia that matches you with your clients.