Before you lose your cool when your client rejects your work, consider more level-headed solutions for greater customer satisfaction.
The customer is always right, right? The problem is that no one’s perfect, and that includes you too. So at some point in your professional life, you’re probably going to encounter a client who doesn’t approve of the work you’ve done. Having an unsatisfied customer or client is unfortunately not a rare occurrence, and for some people, it’ll happen more than once.
So how should you react? What should you do? You need to respond to this dissatisfaction in a wholly professional manner. Your career and your entire business may depend on what you do next.
The first rule here is that must never take their dissatisfaction personally. Just because they don’t like your work doesn’t necessarily mean that they hate you. You have to separate your work and who you are. That may not be easy when your confidence takes a beating like this, but you can do it. You may even want to console yourself with the possibility that your client doesn’t really know what they’re talking about. You’re the industry expert and they’re not, after all.
In many cases, this sort of dissatisfaction with your work is the result when they’re some type of disconnect between you and the client. Clearly, what you were expecting and what they were expecting weren’t the same.
What you can do is to try to resolve this disconnection, by either changing your work or by convincing the client to alter their expectations. Failing that, you may have to stop working together. You should then take steps to keep this sort of thing from happening again. It may be impossible to absolutely prevent this sort of thing from reoccurring, but you can take some steps to reduce the likelihood.
1 Define Your Service
Part of your job as a service provider is that you take the time to set up a contract agreement with your customer. This contract should explicitly define what you need to do for the client. It has to be detailed and exacting, so you can’t say that your work is to deliver a design that your client likes. That’s the kind of vague instructions that lead to misunderstandings.
So let’s say you’re an interior decorator. You can’t have an agreement wherein you’re just supposed to end up with a “masculine-looking” library or an “elegant” dining room. You need to give them an idea of what you plan to do, the colors you plan to use, and what furnishings you plan to get. Print out sketches so that you both know what the end result is supposed to be.
2 Get a Deposit
You have to protect yourself so that you don’t end up working hard for free. So before you start on a job you need a deposit from your client. You can then get the rest of your money when your customer is fully satisfied with your work.
Now if they’re not satisfied, you can then do some revisions. But this time you really need to get a clearer idea of what your customer will approve of. You can’t go in blind and hope for the best.
In some cases, the client may just have changed their mind for some reason and they’re looking for a nice way out of the deal. When this happens, just let them off the hook. You’ve been paid the deposit, and they do have the right to reject the work you’ve done.
What they can’t do is to demand their deposit back. Your agreement should have it noted that this isn’t allowed. If they insist, then you may need a lawyer. But if you didn’t get a proper contract written out, then you really have a problem.
3 Find Out What’s “Wrong”
So you submit your work, and your client says something’s not right with it, or it’s not what they were expecting. You may then have to sit down (after calming yourself) and figure out what’s not right. You may have to help them identify exactly what’s wrong with the work you did, and also figure out what they were expecting for you to do.
Sometimes clients may have some difficulty pointing out exactly what it is about the work that they don’t like. You may want to make it easier for them by giving them several choices of what the mistake could be. You may want to be a little bit deferential and say that the two of you can work things out to figure out what’s wrong.
4 Alter the Work for an Extra Fee
So they don’t like your work, but perhaps the client had a change of heart. Instead of an elegant dining room, they want a homier vibe, for example. In business, this actually happens quite often. People change their minds all the time and on the fly. Sometimes you just have to wing it.
When it’s clear that they want something different, you can change your work but you need to make it clear that you expect to be compensated for it. After all, you’re working extra, so you need to get paid extra too.
So tell them in no uncertain terms that they’re expecting something that wasn’t part of your original agreement. If that’s the case, you can offer them an estimate of what it will cost them for you to provide the extra work.
If they’re not amenable to this option, then be professional and let them go to find another person to work with. You just get to keep the deposit, and you keep your work product.
So remember, the most crucial protection you can get for yourself is a detailed contract agreement. This gives you a non-refundable deposit, plus it explicitly details what kind of service is expected of you.
Then before you take on a new client, do some research on them. Find out if they’re too finicky and they have a bad track record of not being satisfied. You may also want to find if there’s somebody who’s willing to vouch for them.
The truth of the matter is that the customer isn’t always right. They do have the right to say no to your work—but you also have the right to get paid for your work. If your potential client is probably too hard to please, you also have the right to say no to them. That should save you from a lot of trouble in the future!
Also, check out these 5 Great Lessons You Can Learn from Experienced Entrepreneurs
Founder, Editor-In-Chief // A native Angeleno. John studied engineering at UCLA; founded Schmoozd, an offline social tech networking event in LA with 30,000 subs; ran a startup accelerator (StartEngine). Worked for several major brands like Toyota, DIRECTV, Hitachi, ICANN, and Raytheon. A mentor at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) Entrepreneur School, Dr. David Choi. And advises a dozen local LA startups building amazing tech in various industries; and invested in some. // Let's Connect: firstname.lastname@example.org