Royal Pain

How to Handle a Princess Bride

Royal Pain v1

Social media has convinced wedding couples that they are the center of the universe.
How do you handle a difficult client? Working with the most demanding and coddled clients takes a distinctive approach.

Tip #1 – Notice The Warning Signs
Stop escalation before it starts. Brides and grooms usually start with placing the accountability on themselves even though they hold you ultimately responsible.

Be alert for trigger phrases:
“I was really hoping for…”
“I thought this was going to be a different shade of blue.”
“The new contract was supposed to be sent to me today.”
“I don’t understand why this can’t be done.”
“I didn’t know my card would be charged yet.”

When you do not react as they expect, things escalate.

Tip #2 – Remove The Person From The Issue
Establish yourself as a problem-solver by being soft on the person but strong on the issue. Stick to the facts and remove the emotion.

Say: “ I can’t help you when you are yelling at me.” Then become silent.

“I understand the issue, but I feel like we are going in circles. Can I help us get to a solution?”

If you are being yelled at over the phone go completely silent. The wedding couple might ask, “Are you still there?” Reply by saying “Yes, I am still here. I am just listening.” The longer you remain quiet the more negotiating power you gain.

Say: “I have taken really good notes on your concerns. Let me take a look at everything and give you a call back. I problem solve best when I can consider all possible solutions.”

Tip #3 – Place The Spotlight On Them
Common patterns among difficult clients is they place attention on you as the business owner to make you feel uncomfortable or inadequate.

Bullies are quick to point out what’s wrong with you.

For example: “You can’t get anything right. I expected your venue to be open when I stopped by but you were hosting a private event. Your end quote was nothing like the number we came up with before I booked. You purposely switched the numbers on me. You are dishonest and a dumb business person.”

Your response should be, “I understand your concern. As soon as you are able to treat me with respect we can work out a solution together.”

Tip #4 – Throw Brides and Grooms Off Their Game
People behave predictably. Wedding couples are reacting to the negative story they loop in their heads 10 times over again before they called or email you. Interrupt the pattern by asking a completely off-topic question. This will offset their mental story and allow the negative spiral to stop.

Say things like: “Before I forget, I really want you to see this amazing wedding we had here last weekend. They are using your same colors. What email should I sent it to?”


8 Responses

  1. JoAnn Moore says:

    I too have had “challenging clients” and have given talks at a few conferences with my information. I’ve formulated 12 points to be aware of when dealing with these challenging couples. One is that I have put in my contract a behavior clause stating “as we are professional and will always treat our clients professionally and with respect we expect the same.” My contract goes own to point out the consequences for their bad behavior including ending our partnership with the monies still owed. It’s has stopped couples in their tracks when I remind them of this clause and has saved my sanity!.

  2. The part about going silent is Gold. The old saying “He who speaks next loses” Still holds true. When negotiating for yourself it is also a handy rule to remember. Put it out there and then wait… But also remember – Nobody can climb on your back till you first bend over, so don’t bend over !

  3. Stephanie Folgelsong says:

    I love the article. The tip number 2 is something I haven’t tried before but I will do it next time I run into a difficult client.

  4. Luz Lee says:

    JoAnn Moore’s comment is right on. Setting expectations is important to ensure that the ground rules are understood.

    As professionals, we know that wedding couples come in a wide spectrum. Labels are not necessary. For me, I have always loved brides and grooms who make my work life interesting. After all, one would not grow professionally if all clients have essentially the same requirements. Indeed, these couples may be real gold mines. I’m not just talking about increasing our individual knowledge base. The betrothed have friends and family they want to impress. Otherwise, why would they need our help planning their elaborate celebration? And many of the wedding guests know their personalities. If you manage to pull off a great wedding, the singles will say, “Wow!” That could mean that you’ll have potential customers lined up for years to come. That has been my experience.

  5. Luz, well said. Your insight is helpful. Shannon


Leave a Reply