Let’s face it, some people are just horrible to have to deal with, and with hindsight being 20/20, we don’t always know who is going to be a great prospect but a terrible client. So, with that said, it’s essential to have some tried and true strategies for dealing with lemon clients.
First, let’s define what a lemon client is, or at least what behaviors they exhibit. The first and most common behavior we find with lemons is they call, call, and call more. They never stop calling; these are the clients that verge on being stalkers. They haunt our inboxes and voicemails, and if they have our cell phone number, they use it more than our significant others.
The second type of lemon is the angry type, the never satisfied, and the self-important – the bullies. These are the kind of lemon clients who want to be sure to get more than they paid for out of their business dealings, and they shamelessly pursue this end. These are the kind of clients who pay for 10-page websites, sign contracts with editing limits, then turn around and try to get more than what they paid for. The usual is for them to resort to legal threats.
The third and final type of lemon client is the proverbial bored-and-stupid type of client. These are the clients who will purposely break or misuse software or other services rendered to them. For example, one of these clients was sold a website they could edit themselves; when allowed access, they broke the site – 104 times in three months. They continually worked against their own best interest in an ongoing effort to rack up support time. This client’s only apparent motive was to sit on the support line for hours on end, talking to a support representative.
The motives of lemon clients are not our concern here; they could be mentally ill, they could be hostile, they could be anything under the sun, but what is clear is that their behavior runs against our best interests as businesspeople. The behavior of lemon clients can make even the most patient resellers’ blood boil, but that’s counterproductive; what is productive is to cut ties with bad clients before the harm they do to us and our businesses become serious.
My advice to any resellers who encounter these people is the same – fire them and fire them fast. The concept of firing a client may be foreign to you, but it shouldn’t be; in fact, it should be written into all of your contracts. We live in a litigious society, and as such, it’s important to empower ourselves through well-written, legally binding contracts with our clients. The days of operating on a handshake and good faith are long past, and if you don’t get with the times and evolve, you will eventually be harmed for it. Contracts should allow for severance of the relationship between yourself and your clients without the need to explain why.
Getting a good contract written doesn’t need to cost you an arm and a leg either; many internet-based law firms specialize in IT contract law. For what amounts to very little money, a rock-solid contract can be purchased from numerous attorneys online. Investing in a good contract early on can save your business from all manner of problems later on down the line.
Numerous types of lemon clients exist; their behavior can be atrocious – and often is. Being forewarned and having good contracts will allow you to fire them and cut the cord without the drama and abuse of having to deal with these clients on a long-term basis.