As with any business in a service industry, events has its fair share of high maintenance clients…
…you know which ones I mean, the ones who call ten times a day, email even more and somehow manage to push every one of your buttons until you start to lose your mind – I bet most of us have dealt with clients like these and if you haven’t, count yourself lucky!
So what do you do when they consume way more time than you can provide and potentially damaging your business? Here are five tips for keeping those clients under control without losing your patience, your mind or your hard earned reputation:
SET THE EXPECTATIONS ABOUT YOUR WORKLOAD AND RESPONSE TIMES
It’s so easy in events to be “available 24/7” as we clearly love what we do, but it is also what has become expected from clients hiring our services. However, if you happen to run an events business single handedly, and are handling many events at once but haven’t established office hours, whilst continuing to respond to high maintenance clients at all hours of the night – this has to stop immediately! Unless the venue is burning down and the event is this week, there is nothing so urgent in event planning that can’t wait until the next day.
SETUP A WEEKLY PHONE CALL TO ADDRESS ALL OF YOUR CLIENT’S QUESTIONS AND NEEDS
This is especially helpful if you’re high maintenance clients like to call you. Also, you should never be afraid to let their calls go to voicemail if you are working on other tasks when they call.If the client’s event is still a long way off, a monthly call may make more sense than a weekly call until you are closer to the event date. We all strive to provide great service but we also have to make sure we aren’t taking time away from other clients.Scheduling a weekly phone call where they can ask all of their questions and you can provide immediate answers will help you manage the planning process, make your clients happy and keep your sanity.
CREATE A NEW FOLDER IN YOUR EMAIL TO SAVE ALL OF YOUR CLIENT’S EMAILS AND REQUESTS
This sounds so obvious, but when you’re in the thick of things and you have 3 clients on the go all sending you emails at once, having folders to move their emails to for later viewing, allows you to deal with emails that are potentially more time sensitive without stressing yourself out.
When things then slow down, you can view all your clients’ emails in one place, and then confirm that you have received their emails and will be responding to all of them on a certain day. You can even set a day each week when you will send your client a summary email which answers all of the emails from that week on a weekly basis or as per my second point above, schedule a call to achieve the same result.
HAVE A CLEAR WAY OUT
Always be prepared because you never really know when you’re about to book a high maintenance client, and soon realize that you have done just that but cannot handle them anymore, you want to have an easy way out.
For example, by structuring a project plan into your contract you can clearly show your client that which stages the event plan is at. If they are still unhappy with the progress and request more than you are prepared to give, your event contract should clearly state what happens if either you or the client would like to terminate the contract – but be sure this includes what happens with final payments.
In the end, it’s your choice. If you try your best to secure the relationship and it just will not work, it’s in your best interest to “fire” your client well before everything gets worse and long enough before their event so that they can hire another event planner. Keep in mind that when you do the firing, you should do it without pointing the finger of blame at the client. Do not make the client feel like it is their fault. The fine line you must walk here also requires you to avoid blaming yourself. Sometimes it’s simply a mismatch of personalities.
MAKE SURE THE CLIENT KNOWS THAT YOU ARE IN CONTROL
If you set the precedent that clients can push you around, they will. Believe me, you do not want this. If those clients always have the upper hand, they will use it, and you will be miserable until their event is over and sometimes after when trying to collect final payments etc.
As important as having control is, its more important that you make sure your client understands that you understand what needs to be done to ensure their event is being planned professionally. This requires confidence in your skills and knowledge as a professional planner. If you don’t feel strong enough to keep control, you may want to work on smaller events or parties until you have the confidence to stand your ground with larger events and especially with weddings.
The unfortunate reality is that there are only so many clients out there, and some of those clients are not worth dealing with. Clients who bring about the most headaches must be treated differently from those who do not.
The decision to keep working with them is yours. If you decide to terminate that relationship, make sure you do so with caution and help your clients move on by giving them all of the current information, contracts and notes you have for their event. You may even want to recommend other event planners that may be a better fit.
Your fate and your sanity are in your own hands. Treat them both carefully.