Indicators of Troublesome Clients
Prepared by independent SAPAC Reporter
Article Classification: Contractor Awareness
Areas: Southern Africa, Northern Cape, Western Cape,Cape Winelands, Free State, Gauteng, North West Province, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Natal
If you're a contractor specializing in residential or light commercial projects, you've likely encountered one of these remarks:
→ "According to my brother-in-law, your prices are twice as high as they should be."
→ "I've spoken to seven contractors, and none of them seem competent."
→ "We're unable to provide an upfront payment, but we promise to pay the entire amount upon completion."
Every construction company inevitably encounters challenging clients. Aside from causing stress, collaborating with such clients can lead to various undesirable consequences, including:
- Profit loss
- Client service delays
- Dinged reputation
- Health-impacting stress
- Business closure
Mastering the art of conflict resolution with clients is a crucial ability that every competent contractor must possess.
Fortunately, there are numerous warning signs that can serve as indicators of potential difficulties with clients throughout a project. If any of these signs are present, it may be wise to decline the job or adjust your pricing to accommodate the anticipated challenges and ensure your time is appropriately compensated.
Continue reading to discover the six warning signs to be vigilant about when dealing with clients.
1. Arrogance: The know-it-all type
Clients with a sense of arrogance believe that the task at hand is so effortless that they could easily undertake it themselves if they possessed the necessary tools and time. They may assert that they have been informed about the appropriate cost and duration of the project by an external source. Upon presenting your cost and time estimates, they might even resort to issuing threats, such as posting negative reviews about your business or lodging complaints with SAPAC, claiming that you are overcharging.
Their unrealistic expectations and self-proclaimed expertise lead them to undervalue your professional knowledge. Dealing with a client who lacks trust in your abilities can prove to be challenging, making it generally advisable to decline such projects.
Managing difficult clients with an arrogant demeanour: When faced with a client who resorts to threats, adopting a calming approach is the most effective course of action. SAPAC is providing guidance on handling such situations, and for your convenience, here is a condensed overview:
- Express sincere apologies for any inconvenience experienced and actively work towards resolving the issue.
- Employ empathetic and comforting language, such as acknowledging their concerns with statements like "I understand your frustration" or "We are committed to finding a solution."
- Maintain a focus on factual information and emphasize your company's unwavering dedication to its customers.
2. Anxiety: Tales of contractors gone wrong
These clients recount a long list of previous contractors who, according to them, lacked competence. To make matters worse, they may even boast about terminating a contractor due to substandard workmanship.
It is true that there are indeed unreliable contractors and individuals who have had unfortunate encounters with them. Therefore, when a client shares a negative experience with a previous contractor, it should not be automatically regarded as a definitive warning sign. However, such past issues should prompt further investigation and scrutiny. So tell the client to report it to SAPAC.co.za
Managing clients with anxiety: When dealing with anxious customers who struggle to trust you due to past negative experiences, it is important to take certain steps. Begin by asking relevant questions to ascertain whether the issue was an isolated incident resulting from an inexperienced contractor or if there is a recurring pattern of dissatisfaction rooted in unrealistic client expectations. If a pattern emerges, there is a higher likelihood that the individual in question could become a problematic client for you as well.
To effectively handle such clients, it is crucial to provide them with reassurance that they are in capable hands. There is a very good reason you are on the SAPAC.co.za panel.
Establishing trust with these customers can be accomplished by sharing success stories and positive reviews from satisfied clients. This necessitates implementing an efficient reputation management strategy, which involves utilising your SAPAC.co.za profile and actively seeking customer reviews, and promptly addressing any negative feedback received. When informed by the SAPAC.co.za office.
3. Extreme haggling: A rand here, a rand there
It is acceptable for clients to inquire about discounts, and it is reasonable for contractors to include a margin in their estimates to account for such requests.
However, these requests become problematic when clients excessively negotiate over minor items or expect additional work and upgrades to be provided free of charge. This type of client may argue over insignificant amounts, such as R1,500.00 or R7,000.00, or question the rationale behind material choices when the price difference is as little as R 4.00 per unit.
Not only can these situations be frustrating, but they also consume valuable time for contractors.
Managing clients who engage in excessive haggling: A proactive approach to counter extreme hagglers is to establish a clear discount policy. Offer a predetermined percentage or fixed amount off the total project cost, and avoid getting drawn into prolonged discussions concerning individual line items. Respectable clients are typically understanding and accepting of this boundary, while problematic clients are not.
Furthermore, it is advisable to create comprehensive estimates, clear contracts, and stagger payment schedules. By doing so, clients have a clear understanding of what to expect from the outset, and you are protected in case any disagreements arise, such as a client expecting additional work that was not part of the agreed-upon scope. Utilizing estimating software can assist in accurately pricing jobs, defining project scope, and organizing supporting documentation, minimizing reliance on memory and ensuring efficient management of the project. The best bet is to involve a QS on large contracts.
4. Dishonesty: Ignoring by-laws and standards
Acquiring permits may not be the most enjoyable task and can be time-consuming. However, as an ethical business owner, your reputation is built on trust and the assurance that you consistently deliver quality work.
Neglecting to obtain the required paperwork can have legal ramifications as well.
Managing deceitful clients: When a client insists on evading required permits or code regulations in order to save money or expedite a project, it serves as a clear indication to walk away while maintaining your integrity. However, as an ethical SAPAC.co.za contractor, it is also your duty to educate such clients about the potential legal and financial repercussions associated with bypassing necessary permits.
To ensure transparency and safeguard against any suspicious behaviour, it is advisable to establish a comprehensive contractual agreement that outlines the responsibilities the client must fulfil. These obligations should explicitly state that the client is responsible for obtaining all necessary permits for the project. This protective measure can help mitigate any potential legal complications if the client attempts to implicate you due to their non-compliant actions.
5. Incessant nagging: The never ending contract revisions
Requesting revisions to a contract is a reasonable occurrence, but it can escalate into a problematic situation. When a client insists on altering or eliminating clauses pertaining to payment and or arbitration, it serves as a warning sign that they may become a challenging client.
Payment and arbitration clauses exist to ensure the protection of both parties involved. If someone seeks to modify the language in a manner that increases the risks borne by your company, it could indicate that the potential client intends to withhold payment or initiate a claim against your business. Contact SAPAC.co.za should this happen.
Managing demanding clients: Contractors are aware that it is common for clients to request modifications to original construction contracts. For example, a homeowner may desire alterations to the materials used for pavement or the positioning of a window.
Contractors who rely on verbal agreements for change orders are inviting trouble.
Instead, it is crucial for contractors to meticulously document any changes to the project's scope and ensure that the owner signs and approves the associated costs before proceeding.
A word of caution: If you are uncertain about how a proposed change may impact your business, it is advisable to seek advice from an attorney. Otherwise, clients should be willing to adhere to the terms outlined in your contract.
6. Indecisiveness: Difficult to understand and figure out what they want?
Clients who struggle with indecisiveness and are uncertain about their preferences pose a different challenge compared to those who exhibit arrogance and try to control every aspect of your work. Unfortunately, they can be equally difficult to work with.
Such clients are aware of what they don't want but struggle to articulate what they actually desire. Consequently, they provide vague feedback that makes it challenging to ensure the final outcome aligns with their expectations, particularly in new construction and remodeling projects. When clients fail to effectively communicate their desires and requirements, it becomes exceedingly difficult for you to meet their satisfaction.
This situation carries risks as you may end up delivering something they don't like. The indecisive client can then become dissatisfied, leading to potential financial problems and damage to your reputation.
However, indecision alone, without the presence of other warning signs, may not necessarily warrant rejecting a job opportunity. It does indicate that the client may require additional time and guidance in explaining various aspects and aiding them in making decisions. Therefore, it is important to allocate extra time in your estimate to account for this.
As always, thorough estimating, meticulous planning, and comprehensive documentation of every agreement can prove invaluable in handling any issues that may arise.
Managing indecisive clients: The primary hurdle when handling indecisive clients lies in their tendency to communicate late or inadequately. Although you have limited control over a client's willingness to engage in communication, taking a proactive approach can make a difference.
To promote active communication with clients, it is essential to establish clear channels of communication. While email remains a reliable option, you can enhance this by utilizing construction project management software that incorporates built-in communication features. This allows for more streamlined and efficient communication throughout the project.
Conclusion: When your gut senses a problem
If you have an instinctual feeling that someone may be challenging to work with, it is acceptable to trust that gut instinct when making a decision.
There is a well-known saying that you do not lose money on projects you decline. If you feel uneasy about taking on a job, particularly if you observe additional warning signs, it is advisable to turn it down without regret.
However, if you choose to accept the job despite any reservations, ensure that all aspects of the estimate and contract are documented in writing. This way, you can refer to these records if the client becomes difficult to work with.
Despite your best efforts, difficulties with clients can still arise. In such situations, it is crucial to refer back to the estimate, contract, and other relevant documentation to remind both the client and yourself of the agreed-upon terms.
Nevertheless, it is important to remember that there are always ways to navigate even the most challenging client situations.
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