3 Signs You’re Dealing With A Difficult Customer

Tricia Levasseur
6 min readNov 19, 2018
Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

Customers are key to a profitable business:

If you’re a new entrepreneur, it’s possible that you might be happy to land any job or project. Those first deals might feel like they are life or death — because in the beginning when you’re getting the word out that you’re open for business, it’s likely that customers aren’t instantly knocking down your door just yet. However, while there is a need to secure new jobs to sustain a healthy business, it’s always important to select your customers carefully.

In the best case, a customer is a breeze to work with. They pay on time. They refer you to others for good jobs. But in the worst-case scenario, a bad customer can take up a lot of your time and energy (or your team’s time and energy!) that you could put to profitable use on another project.

If you can identify a difficult customer at the start, you might be able to adjust quickly, or if none of your proposal measures keep them in check, reject the project altogether before it comes to any agreement. Here are three warning signs that you might be about to sign a difficult customer.

1. The customer is rude:

How did the customer treat you during your first meeting? We all have off-days, but it shouldn’t lead to the mistreatment of others. If your contact isn’t having a bad day (like someone accidentally crashed into their car on the way into work bad) it could be that it’s just that particular person who gives the final sign-off is difficult to deal with. Meanwhile, the contact person for getting the work done might be a friendly and highly competent project manager or assistant.

If the project appears to be a good match in terms of the project scope, you can point out to the customer your firm believes that a collaborative approach makes working together even more productive and enjoyable. It’s important to not let yourself be intimidated by unfriendly manners.

If you feel uncomfortable around the customer from the start, or if your polite attempts to reign in any behavior you see as disruptive fail, sometimes it makes sense to pass on the job. A lack of mutual respect and trust can negatively impact an entire project. Every situation is different, so…

Tricia Levasseur

Marketing Executive combining Storytelling & Digitial Technology. Techstars Mentor. Former Bloomberg Journalist. Cambridge MBA. www.ShowMeMyCustomers.com