There are few things that cause more headaches for financial advisors (or any other type of professional) than clients who are excessively needy or annoying. Clients who call several times throughout the day to ask the same question or complain about the same problem or issue over and over, clients who expect the world but are not willing to pay for it, and those whose personalities just grate on the advisor can all combine to make the most stalwart advisor break out in hives on occasion. Here’s what you need to do in order to handle this segment of your clientele.
Set Clear Boundaries
If you have a client who is not taking the hint that they’re calling too much or otherwise disrupting your practice, then you will need to set some firm boundaries with them. This may be difficult in some cases, as there are obviously people with mental or psychological problems who have very dysfunctional boundaries and don’t understand that they are treading into your territory inappropriately. If this is the case, then you may need to get quite firm with them and make it clear that they can only call you every so often with the type of questions or issues that they are having. (For more, see: Tips for Addressing a Client's Mental State.)
You may need to train your staff to deal with this situation as well, so that they can screen or block these clients from constantly interrupting you. You may need at some point to establish an official policy for all clients regarding when and how they can contact you if this becomes a recurring problem with more than one client.
Recognizing Potential Triggers
A key component of keeping your cool with unruly clients lies in understanding what tends to set you off. If you absolutely can’t stand dealing with a certain type of person, take a moment to analyze exactly why that is. Does that type of person remind you of someone who hurt you in the past? If so, then you may need to learn a few exercises that can help you to separate this type of person from that person in your past. (For more, see: Deal Effectively with Difficult Clients.)
It may behoove you to do a bit of study on human psychology to get a better understanding of what makes some people tick. For instance, if a client is constantly accusing you of short-changing them when this is clearly not the case, then he or she may be playing out a scenario with you that is actually happening or has happened in some other area of their life and they are projecting this onto you. You may get further with this type of person by validating their feelings in some way that doesn’t admit fault on your part than any other way. You could tell them, “So you are saying that you are feeling cheated here, because of (whatever the trigger was that upset them)?”
Your staff can also be a valuable tool to help you deal with difficult clients. If one of your employees is able to relate well to a particular person that you dislike, then consider letting that person work exclusively with him or her if possible or at least try to use that employee as a go between. (For more, see: Tips on How Financial Advisors Can Talk to Clients.)
The Bottom Line
Dealing with difficult clients is an inescapable pitfall for most financial advisors, and there is no one right way to tackle this problem. In some cases, it may just be better to fire a client than to continue dealing with them, but this should probably be viewed in most cases as a last resort. (For more, see: How to Deal with (Seriously) Dysfunctional Clients.)