10 Ways to Deal With Difficult Clients in Software Testing

Madigan Johnson

Business relationships have the potential to be more consuming than personal ones. A good business relationship is one that cares about the other person, their company, and knows what makes them tick. The focus on client relationships is key, especially in B2B. But what happens when there are mistakes made, misunderstandings in communication or a client is just plain angry? As much as we believe Loop has the best clients in the world, not every company is as lucky as ours. You want to deliver flawless service or products but along the way, you will run into difficult clients. Difficult clients will be some of your best learning experiences, so take the lessons they offer and improve your customer experience. 

We have devised a set of ways that could help most business owners deal with clients that test their limits as an organization. We are here to help you navigate that tricky situation of putting the client’s needs first, while also not selling out your business standards. 

1. Establish standards early on in the relationship

When first starting a new business relationship, it is important to have both sides clearly express their standards in the work to be conducted, especially if what you are selling is a service such as software testing.  When you identify a client has expectations that do not align with your understanding or agreement, we highly recommend being proactive with communication and getting ahead of the dev schedule, release dates, sprints, and more so that you are not blindsided, and the client remains happy. Establishing these standards early on allows for both parties to know what is expected of them.

2. Set boundaries

Like all relationships, setting boundaries is key. Enter into the relationship being clear about the respect for time and turnaround. They will not be your only client and it is important to remind them of that. Get information from the client about the priority and depending on that, try to strike a balance between what they want and what your company wants. Honesty goes a long way in the initial relationship’s stages, so give reasonable expectations about the work and when it can be produced.

3. Communication is key

As is with every single relationship you’ve had in your life, communicating is the most important thing you can do. Try and get integrated into their communication channels for easy access to the client. Have weekly check-ins so that you can get a head start on deadlines and touch base about high-priority cases. Also, understand that the clients are human, connect with them on a personal level to achieve a solid foundation. 

4. Listen to client concerns, acknowledge feelings, and actively listen

We know that almost everyone has experienced an aggressive or upset client, someone that is unhappy with the work being done. Here, it is important to listen to the client’s concerns. Most people just want to be heard. Active listening is a great way to recognize where they are coming from and reading beneath their anger to figure out what is the cause. Acknowledging their feelings goes a long way and can help calm them down while working towards a solution that is mutually agreed upon by both parties. 

5. Keep your cool

This shouldn’t have to be said, but we figured a reminder never hurts. Keep. Your. Cool. When a client is upset, do not scream or shout back. This will only make the problem worse and deteriorate the relationship. Remain calm and level-headed to ride out the anger. 

6. Deliver a prompt reply

Let’s say that the client doesn’t call or confront you in person but rather writes an email or sends a message in their communication channel. Do not let that message go unread for hours, that will allow them to stew over the problem and make it even worse in their head. Instead write a quick note such as “Thanks for bringing this to my attention, taking a look into it now”. This acknowledges their concerns and shows that you are providing action. 

7. Figure out what the problem is within the organization

After acknowledging the problem and deciding to act, you need to find whether or not the issue is a credible one and where it has originated. This means investigating within your organization and talking to staff to understand their perspectives of the problem that the client is encountering. This allows for you to gain a clearer understanding and see both sides of the situation.

8. Keep a record of everything you do

This is where the habits of a great software tester are needed. You need to be able to back up your claims with evidence if the client is in the wrong position. Writing strong test cases, bug reports, and new tickets will show your client that you are doing your job diligently and well. That being said...

9. Be honest and own up to your mistakes

If you do happen to receive negative feedback and it was warranted, own it. Do not try and pass the blame to others, but clearly state that a mistake was made and present different options to compensate for that mistake. Clients will appreciate the honesty and owning of that mistake. Depending on the severity of the mistake, do something for them whether it be as simple as an apology or giving them future discounts. 

10. Review and learn

Finally, review what you and your company have learned from this client. Your product or service might be the selling point, but relationships are the backbone. Build a good relationship, but understand that life happens.  Ensure that your clients are supported by upkeeping the relationships, checking in with them, and recognize that they are complex humans too.

Over to you…

Deliver projects on time, within budget, and go beyond your client’s expectations. By doing so you will hopefully never have to deal with a difficult client again. Reality is, life happens. But by taking these steps you can guarantee that other humans feel secure in their partnership with you. 

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