How To Handle Difficult Clients in Construction Business
How To Handle Difficult Clients in Construction Business

How To Handle Difficult Clients in Construction Business


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Contractors have to deal with a lot in their jobs– from project planning to materials procurement, from crew management to actual construction. But above all, they have to work with clients of all sorts. While some are cooperative, others maybe a contractor’s worst nightmare. So, if you think you might have clients that will give you a hard time, read on to know how to deal with them to keep your business going.

What difficult clients can do

Difficult clients aren’t merely something contractors have to “deal with.” Aside from making construction work more grueling, they can affect your business.

Reputation is a huge thing in the industry, so having a bad one can significantly hurt your business. There are several ways your reputation can be built, but the number one “building block” is by a customer’s word of mouth.

If they think you did an excellent job, they will be filled with nothing but praise. On the other hand, difficult clients aren’t so easily won over. It is by unsatisfied customers that a negative reputation starts and demanding customers are rarely easily satisfied.

With that, if you see a few red flags up and sense that a potential client is more trouble than it’s worth, it’s okay to pass up on a job and move on to ones you’re sure will bring in profits.

Spotting A Difficult Client And Dealing With Them


Contractors and construction workers will experience working with all sorts of clients: the cooperative and helpful one, the nice one, the one open to learning. Unfortunately, not all customers are easy to work with. If you come across one of these problem clients, you might want to pass up the offer. Or you could push through and deal with them– here’s how.

The Anxious Client

It’s understandable for clients to be worried about the project, especially if they have had previous bad experiences. But there are some out there who are of another level. They continuously talk about how their past contractors were “bad” and “didn’t know what they were doing.” A few even scare you with a story about how they fired a contractor for subpar results.

While telling you about negative past experiences isn’t that worrying, they might be the type to watch your every move or breathe down your neck.

Dealing with them:

First, do some research as to why they are so worried. A few questions determine whether the issue was a one-time thing by an inexperienced contractor or the client set unrealistic expectations that caused a failure pattern. If the latter is true, you’re in the hands of a problem client.

To appease an anxious client:

● Assure them that they are in skilled and capable hands with proof of your work.

● Share positive customer reviews, your business’s success journey.

● Gain their trust with evidence that they can’t counter.

Having an online presence can prevent clients from doubting you. It can also serve as the proof you show when you deal with this kind of client. Show them online reviews, the good and the bad, and how you respond to the negative ones. 

The “Omniscient” Client

One of the most challenging clients to work with, the know-it-all sets unrealistic expectations, letting them undervalue your professional opinion and work. This arrogant attitude and lack of trust might lead to them refusing to pay or, worse, legal action.

Dealing with them: 

If the situation escalates, the best course of action is to soothe them. The Better Business Bureau has a more detailed list of how to handle a customer complaint. But in essence, this is what you should do:

● Sympathize. Aside from the expected resistance, diffuse the situation by sympathizing. Acknowledge their feelings with phrases like, “I can see how this would upset you…”

● Apologize for the issue and any inconvenience it has caused. Then explain the company policy to see who is in the wrong. Give the customer a chance to save face.

● Reassure them that you will do your best to fix the problem or do better with your job.

● Hear them out and get the facts. When they have said their piece, you can start smoothening the problem.

● Save your reputation. Reassure your client that you are a professional and have numerous successful deals under your belt.

● Thank your, customer. Show kindness to ensure that they don’t leave.

The Dishonest Client

Some clients would insist on side-stepping some permits to save some money and cut down on time. Considering you want to be known and trusted for your good work, you’d like to remain ethical in your business. Plus, these permits ensure safety and avoid legal consequences.

Dealing with them: 

As a contractor with ethics, it’s your duty to educate these clients on the importance of these permits, as well as the consequences of skipping out. But sometimes, there is no “dealing with them.” When it comes to situations like this, and they refuse to take your advice, it’s best to leave with your morals and integrity still intact. 

The Extreme Hagglers

It’s also understandable for clients to want to save on budget. Unfortunately, some take haggling too far, negotiating over the most minute details or insisting on free upgrades and additional work.

Dealing with them: 

The best way to deal with them is to avoid them. From the beginning, have a detailed written contract specifying pay schedules and estimates, clearly informing the client of what to expect. If they try to haggle during the construction phase, whip out the contract to show them what they agreed upon.

Alternatively, you can set a discount policy. It can cut off a dollar amount or percentage of the total, but you can refuse to discuss lengthy negotiations over line items.

The Indescisive Client

It’s virtually impossible to get started on construction when working with indecisive clients. Without knowing what they want, you’ll continuously be in the planning phase.

Moreover, they can hurt your reputation. Because they don’t know precisely what they want, they can’t give feedback. Because you don’t know how to please them, they can turn into dissatisfied clients who can damage your reputation.

Dealing with them: 

Communication is key when working with these types of people. When talking to them, be as detailed as you can with the questions. Additionally, regularly check upon them to make sure everything is still going as planned.

It’s also a good idea to keep detailed records of these conversations. When the time comes, you can show them the proof that you followed their instructions even if they don’t clearly remember them.

General Tips For Dealing With Difficult Clients


If you don’t know what type of difficult client you’re working with, follow these tips to complete a project successfully while dealing with them.

Explain the plan and set expectations

Make everything smooth from the get-go. Before construction starts, carefully explain the plan to them. Also, set clear expectations and make sure both of you understand and agree on them. It would be better if you had everything written on paper so you have something to look back on in case issues arise in the future.

Prepare yourself and your construction workers.

If you sense that sailing won’t be smooth with a particular project, be prepared. Gather all information you would need to answer any question and solve any issue your client brings up. Additionally, prepare your crew. The client might ask one of them and it would be better if they were equipped to answer themselves.

Listen to them

Sometimes, people want to be heard, so hear them out. Do not minimize their issues. The last thing you want to say is, “Just trust me.” For them to do that, they would need assurance that you are capable of. Peacefully talk about the problem and listen to their side, taking notes along the way. Be a good listener and make them feel that you genuinely care. When they are done talking, summarize their points so you would both clearly understand and avoid miscommunication.

Dig a little deeper

If you find the talk insufficient, try digging a little deeper. Learn all the facts about the issue and why they were dissatisfied. From there, you can work on steps to resolve the issue and prevent it from happening again.

Don’t argue. Apologize (but remain strong)

Arguing will escalate the situation. Instead, keep your composure and apologize for the inconvenience. However, don’t lay blame on yourself. Instead, carefully explain the plan again so they would better understand the whole process.

Improve task management and follow up

After talking things over, take action. From the notes you had during your discussion, apply them and do what would satisfy your customer and what’s best for the project. After that, check back on them to make sure that you’ve smoothed out the conflict. They will appreciate the extra effort of you following up and being attentive.

Use construction management software

Construction management software would make your work life better. Pro Crew Schedule has an array of trade-specific platforms that can help you manage your crew and the entire project. Using one will increase efficiency and productivity and minimize mistakes, decreasing the chances of conflicts with your client.

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