Difficult. Demanding. Unreasonable. Rude.

Every staffing firm has clients that drive them nuts.

Here are a few of my personal “favorites” (yes, the quotes are intentional):

  • The Waffler. He can’t tell you what he wants, but boy – he’s great at telling you what he DOESN’T want.
  • The “Get it Done Yesterday” Guy. He expects you to magically produce 60 qualified temporaries in 60 seconds, flat. Patience? He’s never heard of that.
  • The Monopolizer. This type of client has absolutely no regard for how much of your time he takes up – or how much time things like recruiting, screening and reference checking really take. His personal mantra? “This will only take a minute…”
  • Mr. Hotpants. Everything is an emergency with this guy. His job orders are the only ones your staffing firm should be working on. Ever.
  • The Committee-cizer. More frequently found in large organizations, this client can’t make even the simplest of decisions without “running it by the powers that be.”
  • The Invisible Man. He disappears for days or weeks at a time, failing to return your calls or emails. But when he shows back up on the scene, watch out – everything needs to be done immediately!

The question is, how do you handle them without losing your mind?

In an earlier post, “Is Every Day Halloween for Your Staffing Firm,” I tackled a similar topic. Here are a few pointers from that post for handling upset clients without losing your sanity:

  • Try not to take their difficult behaviors personally. If you’ve done nothing wrong, let their comments roll off your back. Train your team not to internalize rude remarks made by clients who are demanding or upset.
  • Get the full story. Ask the client to share details. Sometimes, the process can calm him down. And by listening carefully and showing concern, you can begin to take control of the situation.
  • Show empathy. Put yourself in his shoes. Phrases like “I understand,” and “No wonder you were feeling (insert emotion here),” show that you’re making an effort to understand his concerns.
  • Discuss options. Once you’ve confirmed understanding of the client’s complaint, use a phrase like “Let’s find a way to work this out,” to move the conversation forward – and make it clear that you’re both on the same team. At each step of the resolution process, check with your client to be sure that proposed actions will be acceptable to him.
  • Set reasonable expectations. Moving forward, clarify expectations, responsibilities and accountability measures to prevent future issues. If a client can’t make a decision without committee approval, explain the impact – and then adjust your hiring timetable. If a client makes unreasonable demands regarding speed or price, educate him about the realities of your employment market. Keep your emotions in check and use sound logic (and data, if available) to establish more reasonable expectations.
  • Over-communicate. Challenging clients are often bad listeners. Realize that you may have to patiently repeat your message several times, via several different communication channels, to get through to them.
  • Know when to walk away. Some customers are simply impossible to please. When a client is consistently nasty, refuses to listen to sound advice, or continually makes unreasonable demands, protect you team – and know when to say, “No.” When your best efforts fail, weigh your options carefully and make service decisions that are in everyone’s best interest.

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