The 5 C’s of Dealing With Difficult Clients

With Allison Tyler Jones

Owner | ATJ Photo & The ReWork
Gilbert, Arizona

DATE: November 16, 2023

We’ve all had experiences and interactions with clients that have made us question our career choice. These interactions might leave us frustrated, angry, upset, or just plain defeated. We replay these interactions over and over again to figure out where we went wrong. After all, we’re in the happy business. Why would anyone get mad at us? Aren’t we just doing what we can to make our clients happy? 

No matter what, it is inevitable to have conflict at some point in your career. So, since we know that difficult clients are a possibility, let’s be prepared. There are ways to expect and prepare for these interactions, ways to manage conflict, and ways to improve our client relationships. And I call them the 5 C’s of Dealing with Difficult Clients.

In this episode, you’ll learn how to:

  • Define what “difficult” is and what it isn’t
  • Manage expectations to avoid conflict and misunderstandings
  • Handle unexpected conflicts and preserve the client relationship

Here’s a glance at this episode:

  • [2:51] – Take a moment to define “difficult” and what “difficult” is not.
  • [4:24] – Don’t confuse different with difficult.
  • [5:34] – To Allison, someone who is difficult is rude, condescending, will not play by the rules, or someone who is not going to be happy no matter what.
  • [6:15] – The 5 C’s are clarity, consultation, conversation, confrontation, and closure.
  • [8:17] – Regarding clarity, the biggest mistake being made in the industry is posting an image on social media without any context.
  • [8:59] – Allison’s consultation process is designed to get potential clients on the phone to have a conversation as soon as possible.
  • [10:32] – Allison shares some quick tips on how to get someone on the phone.
  • [11:53] – A consultation helps manage expectations so people don’t become difficult.
  • [13:19] – The fourth C is a tough one: confrontation. Bring up areas of potential conflict before there’s a problem.
  • [15:12] – Listen to what the client is saying and if they use minimizing language. Confront that early on before it becomes a problem.
  • [21:18] – The biggest mistake that portrait photographers make is when they think that clients are going to fall in love with the images so much that they won’t care about the price.
  • [22:59] – There is a difference between a difficult client and a disappointed client.
  • [23:34] – But what about the unexpected conflicts? There are two stances you could take.
  • [25:53] – Whatever stance you take, the client is going to take the opposite.
  • [31:50] – Sometimes when things go wrong, the way you handle it can actually make the relationship stronger.
  • [32:48] – No conflict is over until there’s closure.
  • [34:35] – Think about all of these steps and have a plan for potential conflict.

“Don’t confuse different with difficult.” – ATJ

“Be clear about what you do and what you don’t do.” – ATJ

“A consultation helps manage expectations so people and situations don’t become difficult.” – ATJ

“Bring up areas of potential conflict before there’s a problem.” – ATJ

“There is a difference between a difficult client and a disappointed client.” – ATJ

“There’s no wasted experience unless we neglect to learn from it.” – ATJ

“Mistakes handled properly can be some of our best marketing.” – ATJ

Links and Resources:
Download a Transcript
Episode #058 How to Speak “Husband”
Episode #003 Having a Successful Initial Phone Call

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