Dealing with the Disorganized Client

Have you ever had a communication nightmare with a client? Maybe you send a relatively unimportant email and they respond within seconds. Just a few days later you send a crucial, time sensitive email with an urgent subject line and you don’t receive a response for days. Later it comes back to bite you when your client complains that you missed a deadline or you failed to do something correctly. You’re dealing with a disorganized client.

Disorganized clients could very well be one of the most frustrating issues to stumble across. Though you strive to provide excellent customer service, a client like this can be a thorn in your side and they can make you feel like you’re falling short of the mark.

Typically you can’t change the behaviors of the unorganized, however, you can set up safeguards so they don’t rub off on your workflow and make you look like the bad guy.

  1. Script your role: Tell your client what they should expect from you. For example, I tell all my clients what our standard turn-around time is and I try to clearly map out the process of how our creative team works. I’ll include details about how often they should hear from my team and I highlight the checkpoints and milestones that we will reach along the way.
  2. Set parameters: After clearly outlining what the client should expect from my team, I tell them what we expect from them to make the above timeline go according to schedule. In essence, I subtly tell them when it is okay and not okay to contact me or my team. This could include saying something along the lines of, “We will contact you weekly with an update on your project” or giving them an invitation such as “If at any time we haven’t communicated with you and a deadline has passed, feel free to email me directly.” In doing this, I define who they should email and under what circumstances.
  3. Shift weight: Often you need something from your client to get a project done.  This could be necessary information to complete the project, initial funding or a signature on a contract. If you clearly tell your client that you need these things from him or her by a certain deadline or you won’t be able to continue, you are shifting responsibility back to your client encouraging them to get organized and stay on top of things.

In working with a disorganized client, it is important to make sure that your client understands their role and responsibilities. If they know the project cannot get done without them, they are much more likely to get everything in order. This makes your job easier and it makes the process of dealing with a disorganized client bearable.