Nightmare clients: how to deal with clients who don’t communicate well

There are plenty of things that are difficult to understand in this world – the plastic that electronic devices come in; politics; the Kardashian phenomenon – but as designers and illustrators know, nothing compares to the frustration of dealing with a troublesome client. An email receipt is a form of insurance in these cases. Clients who don’t communicate well come in two types. The first is known as ‘The Columbo’. It doesn’t matter whether you work for an agency or yourself; chances are you’ve encountered a crappy client situation at some point in your career. Disappointment, the eyes will say; disappointment that this project, much like their life, didn’t turn out the way they hoped. Client: I’ve given you three months. These are the yin to Columbo’s yang. Uncommunicative and often difficult to understand, they use conflicting metaphors and imprecise terms to describe their needs – if they talk to you at all. When you show them the fruits of your labour, their eyes glaze over. Be specific
Use the brief and contract to be as specific as possible about what you will deliver to the client, and when. Like the fictional detective, this client initially seems kind – but once your inbox starts erupting with dozens of update requests, you’ll realise they indulge in circumstantial speech that meanders to the point, and the closest thing they know to a fullstop is the phrase: “Just one more thing…”
Me: (10:01am) Here’s what you requested. If you’re unclear about something, ask. 03. We’ve whittled down their professional advice to the most practical and least violent course of action, and we’ll be posting the solutions over the coming weeks – so stayed tuned. The Clients From Hell blog has over five years of stories to prove it. Nor have you cleared my downpayment. Here’s the first…
Poor communication skills
My clients aren’t communicating well. 02. The other extreme is known as ‘The Deadbeat Dad’. In fact, you haven’t responded to any of my emails or phone calls over the past three months.Client: Do you have an answer that isn’t an excuse? If they don’t get back to you, work on another aspect of the project. A client can’t blame you if you’ve made every reasonable effort to keep a project on track. I call the client two minutes later at 10:50am. 01. 04. Stay tuned for client problem No 2: hasty foreplay later this week…
Words:   Bryce BladonIllustration: Yukai Du
The full version of this article first appeared in Computer Arts issue 233, a special issue (with a photochromatic cover) revealing the UK’s top 30 studios, plus how to craft the perfect folio and make more money as a student…

Updated: 05.12.2014 — 06:53