How to Deal With Difficult Virtual Assistant Clients

How to Deal With Difficult Virtual Assistant Clients

Do you have any VA clients that you kind of dread dealing with?

You know the ones. The ones who give you anxiety when you see their name in your email inbox or on your phone. The ones whose work you do because you need the money but you really wish you had a different client.

To figure out how to deal with difficult clients, let’s first talk about what kinds of clients might be considered difficult:

• Constantly gives you work to do on short turnarounds or deadlines, or changes their mind often
• Treats every task like an emergency
• Sends an email or calls you every time they have a thought
• Complains or scrutinizes your invoice and billable time
• Constantly tries to sneak more things into a defined (or undefined) scope of work
• Speaks to you like you are an employee, or is mean, aggressive or rude to you in any way

Wow that list could have kept going!

There are a lot of difficult clients out there. As service professionals, it’s natural for many VAs to want to be helpful and do whatever the client needs. But it can create volatile relationships between the VA and the client – and many times things go from bad to worse fast.

So what can we do to deal with difficult clients?

Well, first you need to analyze what the problem is. It’s not personal – we need to act like business owners in every aspect of our businesses, and that includes identifying why the client is behaving in a way that we think they should not behave.

How is your behaviour contributing to this problem?

With clients, you teach them how to treat you. So how are you letting your clients treat you?

Short Deadlines

If you are actually doing the work when they send it to you late, or allowing them to do countless revisions, you are teaching them that you will get it done no matter what. Or if they treat everything they send you like an emergency the same thing can happen. Instead: Give the client firm lead times and tell them that they need to abide by them in order for the work to get done on their deadline.

Communication Issues

If you pick up the phone or respond to every email the client sends, you are teaching them that you are putting their schedule ahead of your own. Instead: Schedule a regular phone call (weekly) with your client so they can have your undivided attention. Make sure all other project or task requests go through your project management system or whatever communication policy you have set up.

Critiques Your Invoice

If you are providing detailed billing for your clients, you run the risk of them scrutinizing every point on the invoice. Instead: Your clients are paying you for your expertise – and yes, to get the work done – but you may want to revisit just HOW detailed your billing is (consider detailing the tasks completed on your bill instead of the minutes).

Scope Creep

If you keep saying yes every time a client asks you to do something, you will soon be doing more than you agreed to, probably for the same amount of money. Instead: Define what tasks you will do within the agreement you have with any client. If something new comes along, address it immediately with your client to discuss how to fit in into their work – and address additional billing if necessary.

Aggressive or Rude Behaviour

If your client is speaking to you in a tone that you don’t like, that is absolutely not okay. Of course business is business, and it’s not personal, but some clients do cross this line. If they consider you to be their employee, some clients will speak to you like you are beneath them. Instead: Assert yourself as the client’s equal – and fire the client if necessary. You are not their employee and there is never any reason for aggressive language or behaviour.

In a service based business like a VA, our personalities need to fit together properly in order to get the work done in a professional manner. If you have any clients that you consider to be difficult, first assess why this is happening.

Try to identify if there is anything you can do to make adjustments to the behaviour by reinforcing boundaries or policies, or having a discussion with the client to make things right.

We are in business for the long term, and part of that is finding clients that we love, and that love us!

If you are dealing with a difficult client and you aren’t sure how to handle it, I invite you to reach out to me for a complimentary Cut to the Chase call with me: www.canadianava.org/15-min. I know what it’s like to go through something like this and I’d love to help you push through the fear of handling it.

Dealing with Difficult Clients

Do you ever say yes when you really would prefer to say no?

We spend so much time in our Virtual Assistant businesses trying to find clients, we rarely stop to think about what we do if they aren't that great.

You know who I'm talking about ... the clients who make you cringe when you see their name on your phone or in your email.

Our support professional persona almost always contains the 'people-pleaser' gene, and we never really want to say no to people when they ask us to do something for them.

We might put up with behaviour from clients that is not really acceptable - if those clients think of us as their 'help', or their 'staff'. It's not fun.

But who wants to turn away clients and lose the revenue, right?

Dealing with difficult clients is a necessary thing to learn how to do well in your business. It will help you attain longevity and be in business (happily!) for a long time.

You teach people how to treat you.

And it's up to you to teach them to treat you well!

So what is a difficult client? Here are a few behaviours that might be defined as difficult:

Breaks your boundaries.

If you have a preferred method of communication (email) and the client is constantly messaging you or calling you instead, they need to be taught the right way to communicate with you. Don't respond using methods that are not allowed. Tip: If a client texts you, email them back and let them know you got their message but to please use your communication channels so you can keep your paper trail of their work all in one place.

Micromanages your task list.

Your clients are hiring you to help them in their business because of your expertise. You should be the one managing your tasks and your schedule. You get to say what gets done and when - not someone else. You need to work with lead times and deadlines with your clients so that everyone has enough time to fit the work into their own schedule. Tip: Be proactive and communicate well. If a client sends you a task request, acknowledge it and let them know when you will complete it. Part of micromanaging comes from the client not knowing if you got their request, or not knowing when you will do it. So tell them!

Last minute work

We mentioned lead times above but last minute work is really important to address. If your clients are constantly sending you their newsletter the morning it needs to be sent out, you need to stop it. Let them know what lead time you need to get it done properly, and then hold them to it. When you consistently do last minute work, you are developing bad habits that clients will find hard to break. Tip: The easiest way to stop this habit is to simply refuse to do the work. Rush fees rarely speak to clients. But when their work does not get done because they are not organized enough, they will find a way to get organized.

Difficult clients are often just clients that have been allowed to creep boundaries or work scope. Not always, but often.

Don't let anyone treat you the way you don't want to be treated.

Act like a business owner. Treat the clients with respect. Set rules for them and hold both of you to those rules.

Everything will be clearer and your communication and your work together will improve vastly. Promise!