How To Deal With An Unhappy Client

Unfortunately, this is something of a necessary follow up to this post.

In the same way that as a business owner, at some point you will encounter the client who wants to terminate your contract; you are just as likely to run into the scenario where a client or customer contacts you after the event/purchase, demanding some sort of refund. If my termination article was written to address my #1 most common issue that arises for my clients, this would be a close second. It happens on a weekly basis.


Here’s the typical scenario that causes entrepreneurs to reach out to me:

  • You complete the work. For purposes of discussion, let’s say it’s a wedding
  • Everything goes fine on the day of, but…
  • Sometime later (9 times out of 10, it’s usually about a month), your client comes back claiming that they’re owed something/something went wrong, and now that they’re thinking about it, they think they deserve money back. A nasty email arrives in your inbox leaving you reeling, saying as much. What do you do?

First, do nothing.


Don’t even consider responding right away. Nothing good will come of it, and you probably won’t be able to respond to them in a clear-headed, professional manner. If you want, jot down your initial thoughts/ response. Pull any necessary records of information that may refute their claim.


Reach out to an advisor.

Not someone you can just vent to and get the reaction you want, but someone unafraid to be blunt or even critical of you. For me, my dad or my husband are able to give completely honest advice, or my business coach. Of course, if you know an attorney, this would be the best place to start, so that you know exactly where you stand in the argument. However, an attorney isn’t a requirement yet!


Respond back politely.

The more simple your response, the better. No matter what, your response must be as a professional, not the emotional response of someone who has been attacked.


If they stand firm and threaten to get their own lawyers involved,

It is now time to reach out to an attorney yourself. Get their opinion on how you should proceed, but don’t be surprised if they tell you to respond back on your own one more time, and tell your client to direct all further communication to the attorney.


From that point on, the client may or may not respond back to you. If they do, that’s fine- just make sure your attorney knows that, and get their opinion on how to proceed. It may stay contentious for a bit, but I promise you (and lawyers never make promises), if both sides retain legal counsel, the matter has a much better chance of getting resolved quicker. Lawyer-to-lawyer communication is infinitely more expedient, because we’ll be able to extract emotion and respond with fact, and legal knowledge.


Here’s the final point I want to make: don’t get in a rush to just capitulate with their demands. For starters, you could run the risk of negating your entire agreement if you don’t have a proper waiver or severability provisions. Finally, if you do decide to recoup some of their costs, enter into a lawyer-drafted settlement agreement and release of claims.

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