Just Say No! 7 Red Flags That Help You Avoid a Bad Client

Do you know the 7 red flags of a bad client?

When you’re starting a new business, or growing an existing one, it’s hard to say no to working with a new client. But, over the years in this business, I’ve learned the hard way that there are usually strong early warning signs that you may have a problem client.

It can be challenging to say no to the potential income that a new client can bring. But, some may not be worth the price.

Make a commitment to yourself, your team, and the vendors you work beside, that not every client will be the right fit for your services.

It’s critical, though, to make the decision prior to making a commitment for service. Once you’ve signed that service agreement, it’s much more difficult to part ways on good terms down the road.

Watch for red flags during your in-home consult

Where to Start

Your in-home consult is ground zero for you to use your “spidey-senses”. Carefully gauge your client’s personality, verbal and body language responses for signs.

Even a client that appears very sweet during your initial consult can become your worst nightmare. So, it’s important to pay attention to the warning signs.

Here are seven red flags you should look for during an in-home client consultation.

1. 5-Star Service for a 1-Star Price

You have a problem client if he or she wants you to provide 5-Star service for a 1-Star fee.

This is a huge indicator that they don’t value your services and will continue to ask for freebies and discounts during your entire project.

They are also the ones that will tell you initially they want a certain level of services, then up their service expectations mid-stream without notice. If you can’t pivot on a dime to meet those expectations, you’ll quickly find yourself in hot water.

These types of clients are impossible to please, no matter how hard you try or how great a job you do for them. They will always find fault with you, your staff, or your service. Big surprise, they’ll then ask for further discounts or worse, refuse to pay their bill.

2. In Denial of Space Limitations

There will always be a client that just can’t grasp that they are moving from a large home into a much smaller space.  The biggest red flags of this type of client come during your home walk-through where they tell you what they “plan” on bringing to the new space.

Let’s say you’re walking through a 3,000-square-foot home and you know the client is moving into an 800-square-foot apartment. As you walk through each room, it soon becomes apparent that they are planning on bringing way too much to their new home.

As you bring this to their attention, they stare at you with no recognition. A key phrase to listen for in this situation is something like “Oh, yes, well, we’ll figure that out when we get there” or “Well, I think it’ll fit, so I’m taking it”.

This client, then, won’t take responsibility for their decision when they get to the new home and there’s nowhere to put it all.

Now, this is where it gets interesting. Suddenly, their memory of your conversation evaporates, despite weeks of preparations and repetitive warnings that this could happen. Guess who gets blamed?

Red flags included abusive, rude or aggressive behavior by a client

3. Is Abusive or Rude

If you get a client that exhibits rude, abusive, or aggressive behavior during the consult, it’s only going to get worse. We all know that moving can be stressful. But, if a person starts off aggressive, odds are they will continue to get worse as the stress levels increase. 

It’s just not worth the pain you’ll put yourself and your team through when you have these kinds of red flags early on.

4. Makes Inappropriate Service Requests

There are always some clients that will try to make you their accountant, transportation driver, or personal nurse. This is a topic I go into more detail on in my Business Start-up Essentials course.

They’ll tell you how much they trust you and only want you to help them with these services. But, no matter how nice they are, this puts your business at risk.

It’s an industry policy to never provide a service that is outside your professional scope of knowledge or experience.

This includes situations like providing transportation for your client, handling their medicines, giving them legal advice, or doing anything that is illegal or unethical.

It’s never worth the risk of losing your business, being sued, or losing your livelihood.

5. Changes or Omits Portions of Your Service Agreement

If a client refuses to sign a service agreement or asks to omit important sections of it, it’s a big warning sign that they aren’t willing to honor the terms of your service.

This leads to situations where the client may refuse to pay for services or try to renegotiate a new fee after services are rendered.  

Never allow a client to change portions of your contract. It’s there to protect your business from legal exposure.  A client that ignores a legal boundary from the get-go is usually the client that tries to sue you later.

It doesn’t matter if the client lacks a real basis to sue, it still requires time, energy, and money for you to hire an attorney to represent you until the court or arbitrator decides the case isn’t legitimate.

Red flags include a potential client is talking badly about other businesses

6. They Talk Badly About Other Businesses

If a client constantly makes disparaging remarks during your consult about businesses they’ve worked with before, there’s a good chance you’ll be on the same list after working with them.   

Our business reputation is our golden key to business growth in our community.  Even when we work hard to provide great service to our clients, some just can’t be pleased.

You can post dozens of positive testimonials or have a horde of happy clients singing your praises. But I guarantee that the once-in-a-blue-moon negative review that’s posted on Yelp or social media is going to be the one to get all the attention.   

The frustrating thing is that it sticks around for years to come and could cost you valuable business with future great clients that could truly benefit from and appreciate your service.

7. Unrealistic on Move Preparation Timing

Most seniors will procrastinate when it comes to timing a downsizing move. They always think they have much more time to prepare and execute a move of this level than they have.

If you get a client on the initial phone call asking you to help them purge, dispose of items and move them, but it’s got to be done that weekend (and it’s already Thursday), walk away.

Providing services to clients who have planned poorly is a recipe for setting your business up for failure. It’s tempting to go in and try and save the day when you hear them panicking. But it rarely works out well and they rarely appreciate your efforts.

Why? Because what they are telling you on the phone about their level of preparedness, or service needs, is usually only a fraction of what needs to be done. If you can’t meet those needs on time, they aren’t going to hold themselves accountable for the failure. It’ll be entirely your fault.

So, listen to your gut. Keep your eyes wide open for these red flags when you meet with potential clients. Read between the lines and be ready to make a hard decision to politely decline if your gut tells you there’s trouble ahead.

Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

Are you thinking of starting a senior downsizing business, but don’t know where to start? Click here to schedule a free 20-minute Q and A consult with me via phone or Zoom! To learn more about courses offered by The Downsizing Institute, go to www.thedownsizinginstitute.com.