Dealing with unresponsive clients is frustrating but it can be solved.
It happens to all of us. Just when you think you and your clients are hitting it off and all tasks are getting completed on time, there is ‘radio silence’ all of a sudden.
Where did that person disappear? Why haven’t they responded to your emails?
You understand that people get busy but you also want to know if you should continue working with them. You might lose a potential business opportunity or end up taking the blame for missed deadlines for no fault of your own.
At some point in time, you will come across clients who suddenly turn unresponsive after having what you thought was a productive conversation. In some cases, such a scenario can emerge even after you’ve signed on the dotted line.
It is frustrating, yes. But there are effective ways to deal with such situations, besides of course cultivating healthy client relationships. Here in this post, we will discuss how you can handle unresponsive clients effectively.
1. Understand the root cause of unresponsiveness
Your strategy for dealing with unresponsive clients can be only as good as your understanding of the reason why they disengage in the first place.
In most cases, it comes down to a few things such as:
- Your client is buried in emails
- There have been some internal changes at the client company; it is possible the budget and resource allocation for products and services (that concern you) are being reevaluated
- Your client company is understaffed
- Your client is waiting for internal feedback before they answer you back
- There is some bad news and they are avoiding you for now because they are waiting for the right time to share it with you
- You haven’t set a realistic project timeline
If you want to identify and prepare for such situations before they arise, you need to set proper communication expectations at the outset and train your client relationship professionals on how to handle unresponsive customers or clients.
2. Always schedule a follow-up before you end a meeting
As soon as you sign up for a project, make it a habit not to leave the schedule open-ended. Do not wrap up the first or any other meeting (whether online or offline) without scheduling a follow-up.
This way, you don’t have to send fresh emails or messages to your clients and wait for their responses each time –
- A milestone is completed
- You need to discuss something with the client
- You need to discuss the progress of a project
- You need their feedback on various tasks completed after the previous meeting
3. Have a contingency plan for unresponsive clients
Don’t hesitate to ask your clients things like, “How can we continue working on the project, just in case our project manager doesn’t hear from you?”
While some clients will insist they’d be available whenever necessary or provide you with a list of alternate contact persons for future follow-ups, others may trust you enough to make decisions on their behalf.
In either case, you’ll have a backup plan in place so that your timeline and deliverables can press forward when a client is unresponsive.
4. Stop using calendar due-dates
Calendar due dates are hardly useful, especially when you have an unresponsive client.
Let’s say you need to complete a project in around eight weeks in six milestones. Before your team begins working on the next milestone, you require some input from the client. So, if the project begins on January 1st, you can hope to complete it by February 28th.
But, what happens when the client doesn’t respond to emails or return phone calls after your team completes the fourth stage? Can you still complete the project by February 28th? No. To make sure your clients shoulder the burden of staying within the timeline, you can set deadlines or due dates in the ‘number of days.’
In the example discussed above, you can create a more visual and realistic timeline by stating things like, “We will deliver the 4th milestone, five working days after we receive inputs for it.”
This way, your clients will better understand the consequences of missing small deadlines.
5. Plan ahead to ensure smooth communication
Do not simply assume that you can communicate with your clients via email, instant messenger, Skype, or phone calls.
You need to ask them to find out their preferred mode of communication. Also, there are people who just don’t understand that it is rude to leave emails unanswered.
While some of your clients may be comfortable with routine face-to-face meetings, others may consciously or unconsciously keep ignoring your requests for holding such meetings.
Some clients turn unresponsive simply because they have a hectic schedule and can’t keep up with emails. On such occasions, you can make a quick phone call or drop a text to get them to respond to your email. You need to gauge what works best in different situations.
6. Be upfront about the consequences of missed deadlines
Do not hesitate to state things in clear terms: “If we do not get A, we cannot deliver B or make C happen.”
Most clients will take serious note of it. After all, they don’t want their projects to fail. If you don’t put such things in concrete terms at the outset of the project, you risk getting blamed for missed deadlines.
7. Go to another person at the unresponsive client’s company
This option isn’t always recommended but copying a boss or a senior manager can actually get the ball rolling.
For example, you can copy a boss in a polite follow-up email such as:
We hope you are well.
We have been trying to reach you for feedback on milestone no. 4. Could you please let us know if we can connect for a quick phone call tomorrow? We may not be able to complete the project by Feb 28th if there are any more delays.”
Use it as the last resort if you must; you may end up offending project managers or vendor relationship managers at the client company if you are not careful.
If there is someone else at the unresponsive client company with whom you’ve had a positive relationship in the past, you can reach out to them to get things moving.
In some cases, you can’t even wait for people at a client company to respond. For instance, if you are handling a client’s online reputation, and there is a crisis situation, you need to alert the higher-ups as soon as possible.
In any case, avoid placing blame on anyone.
How do you manage unresponsiveness?
Managing unresponsiveness can be a challenging task, but there are several strategies you can use to address the situation:
Be patient: Sometimes, clients may be busy or dealing with personal or professional issues that prevent them from responding promptly. Give them some time to respond before following up.
Follow up regularly: If you don’t hear back from a client, follow up regularly through different methods of communication, such as email, phone, or text messages. Be persistent but respectful, and avoid becoming confrontational or aggressive.
Clarify expectations: Be clear about your expectations for communication and response times, and communicate them to the client. This can help to prevent unresponsiveness in the future.
Consider alternative communication methods: If the client is not responding through one method of communication, try reaching out through other methods such as social media or direct messaging.
Set boundaries: If the unresponsiveness is impacting your ability to deliver work or meet deadlines, set clear boundaries and communicate them to the client. This could include setting a deadline for a response or informing the client that you will need to move on to other projects if you do not hear back.
Seek assistance: If the unresponsiveness persists and is impacting your ability to work or collect a payment, consider seeking assistance from a third party such as a lawyer or mediator.
Remember to remain professional and courteous throughout the process, and avoid engaging in unprofessional behaviour such as harassment or threats. By using these strategies and communicating clearly with the client, you can increase your chances of resolving the situation and maintaining a positive working relationship.
How do you get clients to respond?
Getting clients to respond can be a challenging task, but there are several strategies you can use to increase your chances of getting a response:
Personalize your approach: Address your clients by name, and tailor your message to their specific needs and interests. Show that you have taken the time to research their business and understand their pain points.
Keep it concise and clear: Keep your message short and to the point, and make sure that the message is easy to read and understand. Avoid using jargon or technical terms that your clients may not be familiar with.
Highlight the benefits: Instead of focusing on features or details, emphasize the benefits of your service or product. Explain how it can solve their problems, save them time or money, or improve their business outcomes.
Follow-up: If you don’t get a response after your initial message, don’t give up. Send a polite follow-up message a few days later, reminding them of your previous message and offering to provide more information if needed.
Offer value: Provide value upfront by sharing useful resources or tips that can help your clients with their business goals. This can establish you as a trusted authority in your field and increase the chances of getting a response.
Use a clear call-to-action: Make it clear what action you want your clients to take, such as setting up a meeting, scheduling a call, or responding to your message. Make it easy for them to take action by including a link or contact information.
Remember that getting clients to respond is a process that requires patience and persistence. By using these strategies and continuing to build relationships with your clients over time, you can increase your chances of getting a positive response.
What to do if a client is unresponsive to payment reminders?
If a client is unresponsive to a payment reminder, there are several steps you can take to resolve the situation:
Follow up with a polite email: Send a polite email reminding the client of the outstanding invoice and asking them to respond. Be clear and concise, and avoid using aggressive or confrontational language.
Try other methods of communication: If the client is not responding to email, try reaching out through other methods of communication such as phone, text message, or social media.
Offer a payment plan: If the client is experiencing financial difficulties, consider offering a payment plan to make it easier for them to pay the invoice. Be clear about the terms of the plan and ensure that it is feasible for both parties.
Set a deadline: Set a clear deadline for payment, and communicate the consequences of non-payment. This could include adding late fees or interest to the outstanding balance, or taking legal action if necessary.
Seek legal advice: If all attempts to collect payment fail, consider seeking legal advice to explore your options for recovering the debt.
Remember to remain professional and courteous throughout the process, and avoid engaging in unprofessional behaviour such as harassing or threatening the client. By taking a firm but respectful approach, you can increase your chances of resolving the situation and getting paid.
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Simon is one of the founders and head of operations at 405 Ads. Simon serves as an online marketing manager to businesses and agencies worldwide. His overall business and marketing experience has helped hundreds of business owners get their presence done right when it comes to today’s online world.