Difficult clients in the event industry are not once in a blue moon. As long as event planners see the light of day, they’ll also see difficult clients.
But, you have to bite the bullet with them. You can’t expect only nice clients to walk in.
EventTube is here to help you with the uncomfortable situations that such clients create for you. We are here to equip you with ways to deal with them.
First, we will identify and classify these difficult clients. Then, we’ll learn how to deal with them.
A. The “clear” client
These clients know what they want. Doesn’t so sound so bad? Hear us out.
While these clients know what they want, they are often also very rigid. Once they’ve decided something, they won’t budge on it.
But guess what, you’re the industry expert here. Not them.
Naturally, sometimes their decisions and demands will be outrageous.
Your first response with these types of clients is to clarify if the right communication is taking place. Understand their needs properly.
If you feel you can provide them with what they want and need well within the budget, do it.
However, if it’s too much, you have to start talking in numbers. There isn’t much room for argument when you give them a reality check about their budget.
Give them a choice, their “decision” or their budget.
B. How do you deal with last-minute client requests?
This type of client not only wants what they want but also remembers it at the last minute.
For example, your bridezilla asks you for leafy decor instead of flower decor at the eleventh hour.
They don’t pay much heed to the cost or inconvenience that they are causing you.
If you’re able to identify this type of difficult client in the event industry early on, you’re lucky. Because this will allow you to cross-check with them more often. Ask them every step of the way if they need something else. And since you’re an industry expert, you must also tell them what they MIGHT need.
However, if you fail to identify them in the beginning, you can still deal with them. Initially, tell all your clients that any last-minute changes and requests will be billed extra and accordingly. This should keep them in check.
If they still put you through misery in the end, at least you’ll be paid handsomely for it!
C. How to deal with a customer who thinks they know everything?
This very annoying type of client always thinks that they know more than you. Even though you’re the trained professional here, they still value their own opinion more.
For example, your client is turning down all your ideas and wants to replicate an event they recently attended.
Even though you know their idea is not practical at all, you aren’t allowed to shut down their ideas.
After all, you have to keep your clients, even if difficult, happy in the event industry.
Firstly, absolutely DO NOT compete with them or try to show their place.
The best way to turn them down is to start by appreciating their idea. Sounds the opposite of the advice you were expecting? Don’t worry.
Appreciate their idea and then move on to explain what it’ll take to bring this idea to reality. Talk about the hours, the financial investment, and the things that can go wrong with it.
Watch them say no to their own idea after this. Reverse psychology works after all!
D. What to do when the client is obsessed with every detail?
Watch out for the “I asked for emerald green not jade green” and “I wanted four meters of carpet, not 4.5”. When you notice your client saying such things for every other detail of the event, know that you have an obsessed client.
They are focused on every detail of the event. But, don’t judge them for it.
Realize it as a strength. It means that they are incredibly clear about points like color schemes, decoration, furniture, etc. It reduces the work for you.
But, to use this to your advantage and not let it become a nightmare, you need to do a few things.
First, you need to get all these “ideas” in WRITING from the client. This way, you can hold them accountable when they question your work. If they are so sure, you must get it all noted and give them exactly what they need.
Be precise with them. And clarify wherever needed. Don’t be careless with the details. For example, if they’re clear about the color, you might want to get a picture of the color so you have the same clarity.
E. How do you deal with clients that don’t know what they want?
This is a very unprepared type of client. They don’t provide you with the information, ideas, or documents that you need.
Firstly, realize that it’s their first time too. But also don’t let them continue with their ways as that will cause unnecessary delays.
Here you have to use your expertise. Since you have experience organizing events, you already have a blueprint for every kind of event.
Share and explain your ideas, and work on them as and when they approve. You’ll realize that this type of client is rather easy to deal with because they don’t interfere with your workflow much.
Take matters into your own hand and organize the event as if it’s for you as long as the client consents to the ideas.
F. How do you deal with a client who is not responding?
This type of client will ghost you every now and then. They won’t pick up your calls or respond on time. And when they do respond, their responses might be a little too vague.
This slows down the progress a lot and can really hamper the event planning process.
For such situations, you need to have multiple points of contact. For example, for a birthday event, be in touch with the client and one parent/sibling.
You can reach out to alternate points of contact to get a green signal on any of your ideas/progress or receive payments.
Also, be cautious about their payment habits. Take more advance than usual if you feel they’re not very trustworthy or punctual with payments.
G. What to do when the client delays payment?
As a rule of thumb, you must document everything. You should have an agreement on the expenses. Additionally, you should also have paperwork and formal text messages supporting it.
Then, when the payment due date has passed, you must give them at least three reminders. If they’re still unresponsive or not cooperating, then ask them what the matter is. Help them resolve the issues that are preventing them from paying you.
Only when none of these measures are working should you resort to legal action. This is why we asked you to have a paper trail for all money matters. When things escalate to court, this paper trail will have your back.
H. What to do when my clients want to exceed the budget?
The problem here is not that they want to exceed the budget. Rather, the problem here is that they don’t want to pay for it.
There is no sugarcoating in such situations. However, to ease the conversation, try to be empathetic first. Put yourself in their shoes and tell them why it’s understandable they want to have what they want.
But then, politely tell them how much it’ll cost to execute it. If they’re willing to add that amount to the budget, great. If not, you must give them alternate ideas that fit their budget.
I. How to deal with abusive or argumentative clients?
These are the most common type of difficult clients in the event industry. They are quick to fight over the smallest of things. More often than not, they disagree with you. And when shove comes to push, they start abusing you.
As an event planner, you need to first listen to their concern carefully. While listening, if you feel there’s even a little bit of scope for improvement in your work, then work on it.
But we understand that you’re human too. We don’t expect you to tolerate their abuses ever so often.
When you have trouble dealing with them calmly, imagine that all your clients from the past are watching you have this conversation. Then, you’d want to present yourself in a way that isn’t very unpleasant.
This is a great technique to keep your cool, but also remember that you shouldn’t have a limit to handling disrespect. Read till the end to know what you should do in extreme situations.
J. How do you deal with a picky customer?
This type has trouble deciding quickly. They want a million options before they settle on one.
The best and fastest way to deal with such clients is to give them minimum options. This will save you a lot of time and you’ll thank us later.
However, keep in mind that you understand their style and color palette well in advance before giving them the 3-5 options.
K. The difficult clients in the event industry who always want to be in the loop
This type of client wants to be told everything that you’re up to. They always have to be in the loop.
But, it can get really tiring to keep in touch all the time when you have other clients too. In such situations, you should have a digital tracking system. You can either do it for free on Google Sheets or have an event management CMS.
L. What to do with a stingy client?
This type of client is also looking for deals, slashed prices, and expects you to get things done for cheap. They’ll try to spend as less as possible.
However, in such cases, you have to stick to your prices. Understand their budget and tell them the limitations of their budget. Don’t try to up-sell them as you’ll fail badly. Give them what they’re paying for.
You also have to keep your rates rigid here. You can adopt the strategy where you tell them higher prices because you expect them to bargain. Allow them to have the satisfaction of cracking a favorable deal with you. But in the end, don’t cut losses for their satisfaction.
Make sure you’re in profit till the end. If you feel they’re trying to milk out more than what you can provide, recommend them to other event planners who charge lesser.
M. How do you say no to a client example?
Sometimes, you know that a client is going to be a nightmare to work with. You already know that you don’t want to work with them.
To reject them politely, you first need to express a desire to work with them followed by a very valid excuse.
You can say something along the lines of:
“I’d really like to work with you but we are fully booked right now. Taking up more work right now will not allow us to do a good job at our existing projects and events. Naturally, your event experience will also suffer”.
Or, you can say:
“I really like the idea and vision behind your event. However, we currently don’t have the bandwidth/resources to actualize your ideas. I’d be more than happy to recommend you to other event planners who have curated such events in the past.”
N. How to deal with passive-aggressive clients?
It’s best to clear the air early on itself. You can break the ice by starting the conversation with statements like:
- “I notice some tension between us, is it just me?”
- “We seem to be getting off track these days. Could you tell me if there’s something you’d like to discuss but haven’t been able to?
- “Our conversations are less aligned these days, is there something you’d like me to work on?”
In fact, conversations like these will help your clients feel like they’re heard.
O. How to deal with difficult high-maintenance clients in the event industry?
These clients feel like needy children at first. But, you can’t entertain them all the time. You must set ground rules early on without them feeling that you’re calling them out.
Examples of some ground rules are:
- No phone calls on weekends, only text messages
- No texting/calling after 9 PM until one week before the event
- Signing documents after all phases of completion for the event
- All decisions signed upon cannot be changed
You can even keep these ground rules standard for all clients alike. It’ll save you from a lot of headaches and you’ll thank EventTube for it.
P. What to do when the client asks refund for an event?
Imagine this scenario where the client feels disappointed or unhappy with their experience with you. To them, a refund might feel justified as experiences are really subjective.
But the problem here is, you’ve already invested your time. And the vendors have already been paid. There’s possibly no way to give them a refund without cutting losses.
As a responsible event planner, ensuring good customer experience is part of your job. However, if the event doesn’t do well, you can encounter serious losses.
To keep your business afloat, you need to have a refund policy in place. Involve a legal team if you have to. You can also have insurance in place.
These measures should help you reduce losses. But, remember it’s not your free card to do a shabby job. Know that losing a good customer is a far bigger loss than losing your money.
Give your best to each event to ensure you have repeat customers and goodwill in the market.
Q. The ultimate solution for any type of difficult client in the event industry
Getting compensated is going to make the hard time you had to go through, somewhat worth it.
Get into the habit of billing them for poor behavior and habits. You can call it “overtime payment” or “miscellaneous” in the expenditure sheet that you share.
However, do remember that you deserve to be fairly compensated for your extra time and efforts. You can’t expect them to appreciate you for it but you can definitely expect them to pay for it.
R. The last resort: How do you politely dump a client?
To keep your sanity and business intact, you need to learn the biggest event planning and life lesson.
You need to learn to let go.
You’d know that it’s time to let go of a client when you’ve tried all solutions this article has offered you so far. You know it’s time to let go when your client has crossed a few boundaries. Let them go when there’s no way to please them.
But, how do you do it politely?
It all begins with the initial paperwork. We are talking about collaboration paper that you make them sign before entering a business relationship. Make sure it has a clause on client termination.
It should include terms and conditions like abuse, failure to pay, heightened dissatisfaction, and your incapacity to meet their needs.
Then, while ending your business relationship you can discuss this clause again. If you both agree, you can end your business relationship. If not, ask them to offer a middle ground for you both to work on.
In the end, if you still choose to let go, do offer them an alternative contact to work with.
And with this, you’re fully equipped to deal with difficult clients. If you have some valuable event planning lessons to share, you can share them here and get featured on our social media.
Best of luck dealing with that horrid client!