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5 lessons teaching teenagers to drive can teach us about working with difficult clients

It’s never good to start a blog with a confession, but let me start with one: while I love my son to bits, we just don’t see eye to eye on some things. It turns out, driving is one of them.

If you’re a parent of a teenager you may be familiar with the concept that because you’re closer to retirement than your 21st birthday, most of what you say should be treated with scepticism. Don’t get me wrong, my son isn’t the typical “Kevin the teenager” (parents of teenagers will get this reference, of course), but even so, he still has his moments.

In the last six months I have been on the receiving end of these moments in rapid succession – and probably only have myself to blame. The reason is that I agreed to take my son out driving to give him the practice he needed after his lessons with a qualified driving instructor.

Given the arguments I had with my mother when I was learning to drive, I have to confess I did wonder whether it was a good decision. That said, I decided to remain optimistic and on a gloriously sunny Saturday morning my son and I headed out for the open road.

After 10 miles, not even the heat of the sun beating through the windows could warm the chill that was developing inside the car. A combination of my bad habits, other drivers’ impatience, and my son’s stress levels going through the roof at a particularly tricky roundabout finally resulted in an exchange of words that I couldn’t repeat here.

The experience made me think of how clients must sometimes feel when dealing with their finances. For many, investing their money or dealing with taxes is as frightening and confusing as learning to drive was for my son on that first Saturday.

So, I decided to look at ways to improve how I communicated with people when they’re stressed or fearful. Read on to discover five key lessons I learned.

1. Listen carefully to the client

If you are working with a client who is anxious or challenging, do not talk over them. This is likely to develop into an argument which could result in you losing business and, worse still, your reputation.

Make a point of actively listening to the client, and take notes that you can refer back to when providing your response. Taking notes also shows the client that you are taking what they say seriously, which will help to create trust.

Always wait until they have said everything they want to say before you respond.

2. Be understanding to build rapport

Agitated clients usually want to see that you share their frustration. While these may be unfounded, you still need to show that you understand why they might be feeling the way they are.

Doing this means that the client is more likely to calm down sooner and listen to your response.  While it’s important to show that you understand their position and situation, be careful not to sound false or condescending.

Neither should you sound so outraged that the client assumes that you are totally on their side, as doing this might make it more difficult for you to defend your position later on.

3. Stay calm no matter what’s being said

As a professional, you’re dealing with people’s hard-earned money, which is an emotive subject and can result in people becoming uncharacteristically upset or angry.

Given that the stock market has been extremely volatile in 2022, together with this year’s soaring energy prices and cost of living, there are more reasons for your clients to be anxious or upset. If this upset turns into anger when you are talking to them, make sure you remain calm even if the claims are unfounded.

If the client starts to speak more loudly, maintain your normal tone or even quieten it down. This is because it’s more difficult to remain angry if the other person is calm, meaning your client is much more likely to quieten down and listen to what you have to say.

4. Explain clearly what you will do next

At the end of the meeting or call with your client, explain to them what you will do next and when you will do it. Needless to say, it’s essential that you then follow through with your promises, and keep to the timescale you have promised.

If you cannot meet the timescale for any reason that’s beyond your control, keep the client updated even if it could result in another difficult conversation. If you can show them that you are trying your best, they are more likely to understand than if you go back with a solution later than you said you would.

If you don’t keep them updated, it’s likely to annoy the client further and increase their anger towards you. Always document your conversations just in case the client makes a complaint later.

5. Don’t be economical with the truth

While it might mean telling the client what they don’t want to hear, don’t be tempted to be economical with the truth because you fear the whole picture will aggravate them further. You don’t know what they know, and the client may even be holding back some on some information to see if you tell them.

Not doing so could then result in the client losing faith in you, which will make it extremely difficult for you to then calm the client down and explain your position. Calmly tell the client the whole story, as this will build their confidence in you and increase the chances of any solution you offer being accepted.

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Happy, satisfied clients will often recommend friends and family to you, and can even become valuable advocates for your business.

To find out how we can help you develop a referral and recommendation strategy that works for you and your business, get in touch. Email or call 0115 8965 300.

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