Pretty much every business out there has clients. Perhaps the more specific label you’d give them within your business would be readers, consumers, renters, patients, students, patrons, customers, or guests. But at the end of the day, they’re your clients, even if they’re rude clients. And they have a giant impact on both the success and enjoyment factor of your job. Lately, a question that’s really baffled me is why are some clients total jerks?! It’s so frustrating!
Somedays I just can’t make any sense out of it all. Those of you who are regular readers know I’m normally not one to rant. And even when I rant, I try to keep my composure. But today I just need to get some of my frustration off my chest! And I have a feeling a lot of you will be able to relate.
I’m Not Godzilla, I’m Nice!
I consider myself a nice person. Yes, I still have moments that test my patience, especially when I’m stressed, but I think overall I could be described as friendly and approachable. I genuinely like to help people. I dislike raising my voice in anger, I’m always trying to look for the positives, and I think I’m pretty darn patient with most things. I’m not mean, abrasive, rude, or disrespectful. So why do some of my clients think it’s okay to treat me like crap?!
I can’t get into the details of my work or who my clients are, but you can trust me when I say their behavior is out of line. It’s so frustrating, and thankfully dealing with these types of incidents isn’t an everyday occurrence. But unfortunately it does feel like it’s happening more often now.
Why Are Clients Rude And Irrational?
Setting my bewilderment and shock aside, I’ve come up with six possible explanations for my rude clients irrational behavior. I have no idea if they would ever admit to their faults or agree with me or not, but I think my reasoning makes sense. In my own experience, being nice is the best way to get good customer service after all. But obviously they don’t think so. Sigh. Why can’t we all just get along!
1. Just Having A Bad Day Or A Miserable Life
One simple explanation for some of my rude clients having an outburst is they’re just having a bad day. Ok I’ve been there. $#!^ happens sometimes. Sure, I get that. But that’s still doesn’t make it right or professional to take your own emotions out on someone else. Especially since I have NO idea if they’re having a bad day if I haven’t done anything wrong. Some people are so cranky! Sheesh.
What I’m trying to do is work harder at controlling my own emotions. Maybe karma is dishing me what I’ve done to others in the past, I don’t know. We’ve all taken out our stress, anger, and frustrations on others before and it’s a really bad habit to develop. We can end up hurting our loved ones this way, even when that’s not our intention. So we need to be the most careful with them the most.
If I’ve got my own aggravating issues to deal with, I pick several items from my list of 60 ways to reduce stress fast, and isolate myself until I’ve calmed down. Now if only our clients would do the same!
Maybe we’d also have fewer rude clients if we got to know them on a personal level, not just business. For example, if I knew my client was going through a nasty divorce, fighting an disease, or dealing with frozen pipes and a broken water heater, I’d be much more understanding to their emotions. And I’d also be willing to show more support, lend an ear, and try to comfort them. Easier said than done of course.
2. When It’s Your Fault
Among my 6 reasons for rude clients, the most logical explanation of a client getting upset is when it’s your fault. If you lost or sent them the wrong order, gave them bad data, missed a deadline, or if something broke, of course they’re going to be mad. That still doesn’t mean it’s okay for them to be rude, scream, or make you feel like a squashed bug. But if it’s your fault, you have to own up to the mistakes and fix all the problems.
I’ve had to do this and it’s not easy. Whether it was the fault of someone in my team, another department, or myself, I have to take the hit as a manager. It’s the tough part of having more responsibility, but it is what it is. At least when we did something wrong, I can understand why the client is acting out.
The best thing you can do in these situations is rectify the situation as quickly as possible. Figure out if you can compensate your client in some way, and then put together steps and procedures to avoid a recurrence in the future. A lot of times that’s all clients want to hear in these situations – that you’re taking preventative measures so the problem doesn’t arise ever again.
3. Stuck In The Past
But what really irks me are clients who are stuck in the past. Some of my rude clients will rehash things from 1, 2, even 5 years ago over and over again. Do they really think our memories are that bad that we need to be reminded once a week of things that went wrong that long ago? Sometimes I so desperately want to burst out “Get over it!” Arrrr lol.
The past is behind us folks. And if we’ve already made changes to improve things, clients are not helping anyone by staying stuck in the past. Change is good. It’s not always easy, but it keeps everyone moving forward. And forward is where we all need to focus.
But some people are extremely stubborn and think they need to make others feel like crap. Maybe that’s to make themselves feel better, or maybe they somehow think they’re entitled to make others wallow in verbal abuse…. (pounding my head on the wall) …. Well, if you have clients like this, my best advice is to build your own ammo. Have a list of stats you can rattle back at them about all the improvements that you’ve put in place since each of the old incidents. Karate chop!
Some blowups come down to miscommunication. I’ve had this happen a decent amount of the time. Emails get misread or aren’t clear, details get left out, things are lost in translation, interpretations are different, you name it it’s happened. Early in my career I used to think communication was easy in business, ha!, but experience has taught me it’s actually quite a challenge.
Even though we have more forms of communication now than we did 30 years ago, communication still breaks down quite a lot. Sometimes we have so much information we don’t know how to process it because it’s overwhelming. Other times we leave people out of the loop either by accident or not realizing the importance of their involvement.
Most of the time things are a lot easier to clarify and discuss over the phone. But sometimes you need things in writing to be able to prove what was agreed upon later on. This is usually the case with rude clients who tend to be crafty, daft, and devious. It’s a delicate dance and usually takes a bit of both formats to limit risks of miscommunication.
5. Arrogant A**holes
My sixth reason for rude clients is rather sad. It’s pathetic, but some people are just arrogant a**holes. I don’t know how they got this way, but somehow they did. Maybe it’s because they’ve never been treated this way so they don’t know how it feels to be on the receiving end? Or perhaps that’s the primary way they’ve been treated so they think it’s acceptable and normal behavior. Neither circumstance makes me feel any better!
It’s hard to build strong relationships with people who are pompous and conceited. I don’t have any friends who are this way, because those aren’t qualities I admire or respect. And let me be clear that arrogance and confidence are not the same. I find it really tricky dealing with people like this, because to get someone to stop being arrogant, you have to put them in their place. But how do you do that with a client? I will not sink to their level. If you have experience dealing with this please tell me how you did it!
6. More Money, More Demands
As I was preparing to write this post, I was thinking to myself, “why has my list of nice clients shrunk so much over the years?” I didn’t remember dealing with this many rude people in the past. And then it hit me – money. Money can do really bad things to people. The more money that’s at stake, the more demanding and stressed people get. It’s no mystery that the higher you climb, the farther you can fall.
As my clients have grown, so have their complaints and behavioral issues. It’s good from a profitability stand point that they have more money to spend, but it’s bad on the enjoyment factor of working with them. It makes me wonder what they would be like if they suddenly shrank or doubled in size. Are their attitudes and behaviors so ingrained in them now that they’ll never be nice to work with again?
When It’s Time To Cut The Cord
Outside of these difficult client interactions, I like my job. But I admit it’s really hard getting yelled, talked to in a condescending manner, and having someone intentionally make you feel worthless, especially when most of the time they’re overreacting. Being in a client service oriented business certainly has its challenges.
I’ve definitely grown a thicker skin on the job, but I admit I’ve had to fight back a few tears before because of these rude clients. Fortunately most of the time I’m able to just brush off ill-mannered and irrational behavior. But I must say, if the frequency of these types of interactions continues to increase, the enjoyment factor of my job will be in major jeopardy. Right now these outbursts are occurring 1-2 times a week which isn’t great, but is manageable. If that rises to 3 or more though, I’ll have some serious considering to do about staying with this company because I don’t think these client relationships will be severed anytime soon.
Further reading: How to deal with difficult clients in business
Untemplaters, what are your thoughts on why are some clients total jerks? How often do you have to deal with difficult, rude, or crazy clients? Why do you think some people think it’s okay to treat people like dirt? What advice do you have on coping with bad clients?
Copyright 2014. Original content and photography authorized only to appear on Untemplater.com. Thank you for reading!
I’m a little late to the party, but I found this article through Google. I just recently went through a freelancing situation where a client was incredibly condescending to a point where it was hindering overall work flow. An error occurred, which I took full responsibilty for, offered multiple solutions and was met with a simple ‘it’s too late’ with no acceptance of suggested solutions nor recommendation for an alternative solution. I approached the client, in the most professional manner, about how our previous conversation did not sit well with me as I am solutions-oriented and was left not knowing how to rectify the situation. I was immediately let go for ‘not being a good fit’. People have told me that it is in my right to fire a client, however, it was the first hiccup that had occurred so I thought I could have fixed it. I dont think it would have been fair for me to fire them without addressing the situation and giving them an opportunity to realize why I was put off. Some people have bad days and don’t realize they are being harsh, heck, I can’t say that it’s never happened to me. But in those moments, I need someone to politely let me know and I will check myself. It was an unfortunate situation because I actually loved what their company stood for, but it wasn’t worth the stress in the end. I think the 70% turnover rate should’ve been my first red flag.
Gosh, so sorry to hear that Elle! Mistakes happen – that’s a part of doing business – and I think you made the right move by offering multiple solutions and trying to work things out. It’s so hard dealing with harsh clients – I completely empathize. 70% turnover is super high and does indicate lots of other problems. You’re better off without them. Hang in there and best of luck!
Sydney, this is a problem all of us face. Your categories are well conceived. I had a miscommunication with a client where I used an a word that he found offensive when I meant no harm. I could see in hindsight where he could feel it minimized his effort. I quickly apologized over the phone and he was fine with it. But later in the day, I felt really bad, so I shot him off a letter of apology. I hope it made him feel better.
In a second incident, I had a long time client demand I reduce my fee for work this year. The demand was a large one and I had a choice of either retaining the client at a reduced fee or just losing her. I opted for 2/3 of a loaf of bread. It turns out her brother had just died that week.
For the most part, after 35 year in practice, the key for me is the initial intake decision. If the person is nice, reasonable in our first discussions, then I will consider having them as a client. Many times I respectfully decline to represent them. This is one of the most important things I have learned and worked on developing.
101 Centavos says
Are you able to fire these customers? It can come the point when the aggravation factor outweighs the profitability of keeping on.
With internal customers it’s a little trickier, since you don’t get a vote with which a**hole you work with, and you can’t no-bid, as it were.
I wish I was able to fire them. Unfortunately they are big revenue generators, so it’s unlikely those above me will be willing to fire them anytime soon. At least I have a good support system so when things get really bad, my managers step in to help handle the most difficult client situations.
I refuse to ever be disrespected but at the same time I always look at the end goal. If I need to close a case my main goal is to close that case. I’ve found that overwhelming kindness negates 80% of the negativity that comes from people.
Kindness really makes a difference! I completely agree. It makes everything so much easier.
Bryce @ Save and Conquer says
I sometimes have to fall back on my military training to get past a real jerk of a client. If it is a valuable contract with probably lots more work to come, I just suck it up and say yes sir, we will have what you want on time and on budget. If I know the person is a jerk from previous work, I make sure that I have padded the contract enough that we will realize a very high profit. Then I move mountains to get the job done ahead of schedule so they have less reason to be a jerk. Other times, I deal with jerks by teaching them that what they are asking for is either not possible, or teaching them why what we are doing is correct, no matter what they think or say. I make sure to deliver exactly what I have promised, which is what is in our contract, and no more.
Smart approach Bryce and I can appreciate your method of having to fall back on your military training at times.
Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way says
5 years ago I had a very rude client, he didn’t even listened to my explanation. That’s so rude to him that he even got to the point that he was shouted already at me!
I think it also depends on what type of clients they are. If you’re selling a really expensive product to rich folks, a lot of them might be super snobbish. They think that just b/c they’re paying thousands of bucks, they own you!
Well newsflash. No matter how much someone pays me, no one will ever own me. Also, some clients feel like they can be rude to you just b/c they’re the customer.
Yeah when a client is paying a lot, they feel entitled to lash out and it can be hard to blame them even though they have the ability to be professional about it.
Having worked in the customer service industry for quite some time, I know what you mean by rude clients. There are a variety of reasons why people can be so rude but all we can do is keep calm and be polite ourselves.
I definitely feel better myself when I stay calm and don’t let a rude client get under my skin.
One thing I’ve had to learn over and over is that customer (or client) expectations are not always rational!
Yeah, some people are crazy!
Money Beagle says
I once worked for a small business and one of my colleagues was constantly getting abused by a particularly demanding client. He was beyond frustrated. The owner of the company stepped in and personally agreed to handle the account for 30 days. He responded to every call, he dealt with every situation, and took care of every onsite issue himself. At the end of the 30 days, he left repeated messages asking for a face to face meeting to discuss next steps. Never got a phone call back, so he sent an e-mail politely informing the client that our company would no longer be able to provide services to them. Within five minutes the phone magically rang. It was too late.
So, bottom line, don’t be afraid to fire a client. They have to make it worth your while to do business with them, it’s a two way street.
That was nice of the owner to step in and do that! That’s really interesting on the approach he took and how the client thought they could get away with everything but lost out in the end.
Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter says
Working in retail, I dealt with this a lot. I always said I would never get short with customer service people when I didn’t work in retail, but sometimes it can be frustrating waiting in line only to have the associate take somebody who was waiting for less time than you.
I’ve never worked in retail, but I can imagine it takes so much patience. Customers can be so rude just because they’re having a bad day and totally take it out on an innocent sales rep or cashier.
Buck Inspire says
Powerful post Sydney! I slightly disagree with your gathering ammo against the client (stuck in the past). It feels good to fight back, but in the end it turns into a pissing contest. My suggestion is to sternly bring up is that really necessary? Remind them that you are trying to help and it is not helpful going back in the time machine. As for the arrogant a-holes, Michael Port of Book Yourself Solid said to get rid of them. You are doing a service for both you and the client. You two obviously don’t mesh well and they could be better served by someone else. Plus is the money worth going through all that pain?
Thanks Buck. Yeah I can see your point. Most of the time I just have to let the client vent and take the beat down and save the ammo for negotiations later on.
Sorry to hear about your troubles. But you are smart by blowing steam via your blog rather that at the customer!
Thanks MC. Yeah it feels really good to write down feelings and get things off my chest!
Financial Samurai says
So many people are so miserable in their jobs, they can’t help but take it out on other people. Wake up everyone! If you are working at a job you hate, get the F out and stop blaming other people who are trying to help!
Hang in their Sydney!
Yeah it’s really unfair when people take their own misery out on other people instead of putting their emotions towards remedying their own situation.
Sorry to hear that you’ve had some difficult clients lately. In my business (real estate), we basically work with the general public, so we see all types. I can understand when some people become difficult during a transaction, because its a big purchase and its easy to get stressed when something like that hangs in the balance. The type of client I have a hard time tolerating is the one that knowingly will waste my time and simply not care. Patience is definitely helpful in these situations. But as you said, sometimes you have to cut the cord. I need to get better at that. Some helpful tips here, thanks!
Thanks Michael. Yeah I can totally see how that must be frustrating, especially when they take a lot of your time like that and don’t care.