What do you do when an unhappy client threatens to ruin your day?

You’re obviously doing your best to please all of your clients. You offer packages and bundles to reward loyal customers. You invest in the online scheduling app that reminds them to rebook and lets them pay online. You give your services everything you have to ensure the highest quality.

But there’s that one grouchy client you just can’t seem to keep happy.

They scowl or straight up sulk, refusing to make eye contact and rolling their eyes. They’re impatient and snippy, and you can’t seem to get them to engage.

Maybe they’re having a bad day. Maybe they’re always like this. Either way, you’ve made the calculation that instead of ending the relationship, it’s worth it to keep them on as a client. (Remember that you can always end client relationships if someone is too hard to deal with—you don’t deserve to be treated poorly!)

If you think the relationship is salvageable, you’ll need to neutralize the angry client. There’s simply no reason to continue with the situation as tense as it is. Luckily, there are tactics you can use to diffuse the situation, deal with the client, and make sure you keep them in (and on) your good books.

1. Kill them with kindness.

Have you ever woken up late, rushed out the door without your coffee and then felt time-strapped and grouchy all day?

Or maybe you’ve been commuting and were stuck in a traffic jam on your way to work. Whenever this has happened to me, I’ve been irritable—and the feeling is usually hard to shake all day long.

I know I’ve probably carried that feeling with me when I went to get my haircut or get a massage, and if anything inconvenient happens while I’m waiting or something delays my appointment, I’m far more likely to snap at the service provider, even though they don’t deserve it. (No matter how bad my day is, nobody deserves to be treated badly.)

So when you’re dealing with a grouchy client, try to put yourself in their shoes. Maybe they’re having a rough day and just need a little kindness.

They’re certainly not justified in treating you poorly, but often a client will brighten (and admit their mistakes) once you kill them with kindness.

The best way to turn around a bad mood is to approach clients with empathy and be as genuinely kind as possible, no matter how grumpy they seem. It’s difficult to be grouchy at somebody who is empathizing with you and kind to you, and clients will likely begin to soften at your smile.

Remember that clients are just people, too, and they have bad days and deserve empathy and warmth. Let your service be a relief from their bad day, and have them feeling better on the way out.

2. Admit your mistakes.

Sometimes, when a client becomes difficult to handle, it’s because of an error made by your business or a hiccup with their service.

Maybe you double booked their appointment or left them waiting for a bit too long. Or maybe there was a small communication blip that led to their service being less than satisfactory.

We all make mistakes sometimes, and while it would be nice if your client understood that and cut you a break, that’s not always reality. After all, they’re paying for their service and expect to get their money’s worth.

So, while it’s difficult to admit your mistakes to a client that seems to be foaming at the mouth, they probably just want to hear you say sorry.

Here’s how to structure an apology:

  1. Name the problem. Say “It was clearly my mistake to book you a half hour later than expected.”
  2. Apologize. Say “I’m sorry.”
  3. Thank the offended person for dealing with the consequences. Say “Thank you for waiting.”
  4. Assure them you’ve corrected it for the future, including offering a new solution. Say “I’m switching to online scheduling software to eliminate mistakes like this,” or “I’ve set a wider margin between appointments”  and always add “so it won’t happen again.”

The client may be upset, but if you genuinely acknowledge your mistake and apologize to them, you’ll be well on your way to making them a happy camper again.

3. Give the client an unexpected bonus.

Whether your client is giving you a hard time because you made an error or for some other reason, sometimes the perfect thing to lighten the mood and make them feel secure in their decision to hire you is to give them a little something special.

If you made a clear error, consider offering a discount on their service or a free upgrade (bonus points if the upgrade is stress-relieving, like a massage). If the client simply seems unhappy for no reason, you might win them over with a freebie or upgrade—especially one that doesn’t break the bank for you.

Giving your clients a bonus when they least expect it can fix the problem quickly—and up their customer loyalty. (Fun fact: Schedulicity allows you to set discounts or create package deals according to whatever terms make the most sense for you.)

So next time there’s an error made or just a grumpy client to deal with, offer a little bonus to sweeten their mood. It will make them feel taken care of, listened to, and appreciated—and more likely to book again.