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In robust economic times like these, it’s easy to dismiss difficult clients.

(Photo: SIphotography / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images)

(Photo: SIphotography / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images)

They may be irrational or cut from a different cloth than others, but they can be a valuable source of information.

Your longtime clients will not always tell you the truth because they like you. They will be reluctant to rock the boat, instead deciding to work around your inefficiencies.

For this reason, it is wise to understand difficult clients better. It has been my experience that they will make you better. 

In my own landscaping business, I’ve had clients make suggestions that I didn’t take seriously. That’s because I couldn’t see beyond our current way of doing things.

Why they are difficult

The point is, difficult clients are how they are because they don’t understand how to work with you to get what they want. That makes them anxious and feel out of control.

Nobody wants to feel out of control when they hire a service to solve a problem. It’s up to service providers to have a process that takes control.

Is this a good time to revisit your business process?

Most landscaping and lawn care owners would say no because the work is piling up. That I understand, but booming periods like these don’t last.  

It’s common to believe you have a process because we all do. The challenge is communicating it to clients, so they are never anxious about what is going to happen next.   

Many companies promote their process, but they cannot seem to articulate it. This is especially frustrating for clients who signed up with the company based on that promise.

Most buyers want to sit back and enjoy the ride. You need to assure them that they can have that expectation, that you’ve worked out all the details.

And most importantly, you need to show them this before they buy, and ideally, at least once during the onboarding period. At a minimum, this should include: 

  • Their responsibilities
  • Your responsibilities
  • Progress checkpoints and milestones

Take control

In short, you need to take control so they feel like they are in control. It’s a paradox that I discovered during an important growth phase of my landscaping business.

Clients buy from you because they trust you. However, you earn that trust throughout the lifetime of the relationship. You’ll know by one of three ways if that trust is in question: 

  1.  Difficult clients will let you know
  2. Longtime clients will remain silent
  3. Reluctant clients will take control

Nobody wants to learn their process is frustrating, but it’s a fact that every process can be improved. We all need to look for ways to make those discoveries.  

My company, Landscape Digital Institute, is working with a new service provider. I like their product and team, but there have been frustrations we are working through.

 I’ve reluctantly taken control of the process so my business can move forward with them. While I’d love to help the company by sharing the flaw in their process, I cannot because it could adversely affect our working relationship.

See what I mean?

We all must own our business process. We’ll occasionally lose control of it, but if we proactively engage with our clients, we’ll discover how to get it back on track.

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