Client Management: Dealing with Unhappy E-Learning Clients

No matter what industry we’re in, dealing with the occasional unhappy client or customer seems to come with the territory. If you’re an instructional designer or e-learning developer working as a freelancer, these situations can be doubly stressful, because they might mean losing out on potential work.

I was once in a freelance situation where a client wanted me to design a 10-slide mockup course that looked beautiful but contained generic dummy text. I created what I was asked to create, but when I met with the client to find out about next steps, my customer told me the content was TOO generic and their client couldn’t envision the subject matter in the course. They were disappointed with my product at that point, and I was concerned because I had an unhappy client.

When such situations come up, which they inevitably do, how we handle the situation says a lot about us. So remember these tips the next time you confront an upset client:

Don’t Take Criticism Personally

Remember, the client doesn’t have an issue with YOU. They have an issue with a product or service you provided, and feelings should not even enter the equation. You’re a business professional so you need to appear calm, collected, and unflappable.

When my client told me they didn’t like the course I had created, I realized it didn’t really have anything to do with the look and style; the subject matter was the problem. So, I didn’t take it personally or feel like I was a “bad designer.”

Take Responsibility When You Should

Now, there are times where we slip up or make a mistake, or something happens that is genuinely our responsibility. When that is the case, accept it graciously. Mistakes happen to everyone, and people are generally pretty understanding. Owning up to a mistake is better than denying it ever happened, which makes you look irresponsible and dishonest.

In my case, the customer had explicitly asked me to use generic dummy content, but I didn’t want to counter with that, which would seem like I was blaming them. Instead, I told them I was disappointed that my work had not lived up to their expectations, and that as a professional, I was unhappy with that outcome.

Listen Carefully

It’s easy to become defensive and quickly start fuming inside, but it’s important to remain calm and listen attentively to what your customer is telling you. While it can be painful to receive criticism or feedback, this is often the stuff we learn from the most.

In my example, I listened closely to exactly what the client was telling me, to get insights into the proper solution for them.

Offer a Solution

Asking your client or customer what they think could help resolve the problem is one approach. Another is to identify your own solution and present it to them. You want to be seen as helpful and considerate when a problem arises, and by helping to find a solution, you’ll do just that.

In my situation, I offered to add industry-specific placeholder content to help their client better envision the final course.

Learn from the Situation

We all know experience is the best teacher. These situations often provide valuable nuggets of information we can take to our next job or contract.

What I learned from my unhappy customer is that when future clients tell me they want generic dummy content, I’ll make sure to find out more and offer alternative solutions, so I don’t encounter this problem again. On a positive note, I think my approach worked well in this case because a few months later my client contacted me about another project!

So, have you ever had an unhappy client or customer? What did you do to deal with it? Leave your comments below!

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CJ Andrew