Bad Client Behavior Will Not Be Tolerated


Unruly clients are a bigger threat to your business than you might think.

  • Make sure you have clearly communicated expectations.
  • Let them know bad behavior won’t be tolerated.
  • If they do it again, fire them.

Related: Three Illustrations To Help Grow Your Business


Unruly clients are a bigger threat to your business than you might think.

Recently my wife and I were at a hotel, and we watched a five-year-old child race from the spa pool and jump into the main pool and heard his mother tell him not to do that again. Immediately he jumped back into the spa pool and then did it again. She warned him again. . .

He did it a third time, and she followed him out, standing on the side of the pool, telling him he now needed to get out and sit on the side of the pool.

He started wailing and carrying on in the main pool, and she wouldn’t get in to get him out. And by this stage, a number of people are now watching what’s going on. She started counting—1…2…3..— and when she could see that was having absolutely no effect, and now she was starting to get tired and wearied by this, he was simply watching and shouting even more loudly at her. And then she started subtracting points. So I don’t know what the points related to, and by this stage, I’m starting to go up the wall! You could see this poor mom was just fatiguing herself. Everyone was focused on the single child just being willfully disobedient, not experiencing any of the consequences, and, worse, his sister, her daughter, was simply being forced to sit in a chair and watch for the next 10 minutes while there was no attention given to her and everybody was focused on the poor behavior of this one, petulant little child.

We can do the same thing as advisors: we can tolerate the poor behavior of clients and not recognize the damage that it’s doing within our staff, and the damage that it does by distracting us to focus on them when we really should be focusing on wonderfully compliant clients.

We fired two clients who simply wouldn’t respect our female staff. They would talk down to them, talk disrespectfully to them. And we warned them once, and when it happened again, we fired them. We simply weren’t going to tolerate that behavior. We were also sending a signal to our staff: you’re valuable to us, you’re not going to be subjected to this person’s poor behavior. Unfortunately, that mom neglected her daughter sitting on the side. We weren’t going to do that with our staff.

You need to fire clients who won’t follow your advice, who won’t heed your warnings when it comes to how they behave to your staff, but also when it comes to how they follow your advice. You’re the paid professional. You are the adult in the room. You are the one with the knowledge, and they need to respect you and follow your advice.

I’ve spoken with advisors who just shrugged this off and then wonder why, 16 months, two years down the track, these clients have become even more problematic and simply won’t follow a single word that that advisor says. You need to deal with these clients. Tell them what’s expected once. If they disobey you, then let them feel the consequences immediately. That little boy felt none of the consequences that he needed to learn from the situation, and all the time was just a distraction to everybody else in the area. Don’t do that to your staff. Don’t do that to your well-behaved clients.

So, to avoid having an unruly client emotionally exhaust you,

  1. Clarify the rules. Let them know the rules. Let them know where the line is.

  2. Warn them. Let them know, if they do that again, you’re going to fire them.

  3. If they do it again, fire them. Let them go. You have standards you expect in your office, and let your team know that you have their back. Let them know that you want a peaceable environment. You need to let these people go.

Most importantly, you’re then going to be able to focus more of your emotional bandwidth on the silent clients—the ones who are eager to follow you, the ones who do listen to what you say and peaceably go about just following exactly what you tell them to do. They’re the ones that you don’t want to overlook when you’re having to deal with unruly clients. Do this, create a peaceable office, and ensure that all your clients get the best of your emotional attention.

I look forward to bringing you another Distraction-Proof Advisor Idea next week.