Difficult Clients or Difficult Mindset?

What are the top 6 things you need to take on difficult high maintenance clients and patients?

1.)    A culture that embraces: DIFFICULT 

2.)    A culture that is flexible in customer approach

3.)    A culture that does not allow team members to blame circumstances

4.)    Accountable Leadership to its culture code of embracing difficult

5.)    A culture of compassionate customer service, complaints are opportunities

6.)    A culture that disallows complaints about customers and examines the deeper needs

Building a great culture starts with building a great team. 

There is the challenge of taking on higher risk, higher acuity patients where risk needs to be properly assessed. 

But what about difficult clients in general?  The difficult clients are where the highest premium can be charged, the highest value can be delivered, the best stories can be told, and the prime battleground for winning over prized market referral sources.  

How you and your team approach the question “how do we retain difficult clients” in practice through your actions, will be a direct reflection on your retention of them. But first, it’s going to take the right people in the right seats with the right mindset. 

Difficult clients exist in every industry and can be your most valuable asset or a biggest liability, a consistent drain on already spread too thin resources. While there is truth that there are just some people that are “unpleasable”, these are rare exceptions, and with the right approach = not people pleasing but problem solving; these difficult clients can be satisfied with a joint beneficial outcome.

We offer an example of a home care company that was providing care for a difficult client. That was until they lost their client to a competitor. The problem was they lost the 24 hour 7 day a week client because the scheduler was simply “fed up” with the issues and suggested directly that the client consider a competitor. And they did.  (About $262k per year if you’re counting). 

The challenge of working with difficult clients  applies across industries the underlying philosophy you carry and prioritize customer service will be a direct factor that will drive client retention up or down.

Clients are lost for controllable and uncontrollable events. We are addressing controllable events here. A lost client means lost revenue. Lost revenue can mean a step back from growth goals for the business. A lost client potentially means poor reviews and negative word of mouth.

What the business owner found was the lost client (which consisted of 17% of his revenue at the time), was a welcome relief for his staff. Why? The home care staff working with the client was happy to see him go because he ” was impossible to please/put up with/rude/etc.”

The client, “Richard”, was a veteran and active elderly man in his eighties. Richard’s wife “Jane” needed home care. Jane was depressed, not getting out of bed, not engaging.

The care service thought Richard was a “high maintenance” client. The internal staff were discontent with Richard’s complaints.  Some of the team’s responses: “Richard is unrealistic, difficult to deal with, he takes up my time, I don’t like him”.

Complaints are a gift or a nuisance, how your team views  and addresses them makes all the difference.

The business owner did not think the team approach to customer service approach was a problem, after all, they had “hardly any complaints” and good reviews overall. 

Flexible customer service focused approach vs Inflexible administrative approach

Policies and procedures are important. They exist for a reason. The agency did not want to adjust and offer a changed time start at night for security reasons. While these are valid concerns and it may be important from time to time to point out these policies and procedures for safety, compliance, legal, or regulatory reasons, etc. identifying the underlying need is important. 

The main Issue

The main issue was not the policy or adherence to it, yet that was the reason they provided.  The main issue was the belief that Richard was a difficult client. And there was no real clear direction on how to handle difficult clients. The belief that Richard was a difficult client coupled with a lack of a strategic approach on how to deliver customer satisfaction was leading to a client exit before it even began. Satisfaction was not the goal for the team. The goal was to not have to deal with the discomfort of Richard.

The team was fairly adamant that they would not want the client back (even if he was willing to return).” he was so unreasonable” “He was crabby and mean”. Richard was a “pain the neck”.  I think Richard got the sense that he and his dollars would be more welcome elsewhere.

The leader of the team in this case co-signed off on everyone’s feelings about Richard.

The win goes to their competitor, who could be you. You keep the clients you deserve. You have competitors in your market that do not want difficult clients. Are you one of them? To what lengths are you willing to go for a client?

There is the difficulty of dealing with demands and personality from clients. To what lengths do you go to support difficult clients in demands

The client relationship dynamics and the underlying inherent philosophy of the team that interacts with them play a key role in retention.

The decisions that led to the loss of the client stemmed from an “accidental” culture where the team was rejecting difficult clients without a focused game plan and strategy on how to approach and handle the category of “difficult clients”. 

An accidental culture is where the results produced are not what the business owner intends, whether it is negative reviews, client or employee attrition, or any number of combination of things that hurt the business.


Working with a fractional business developer is a great is a great way to help improve outcomes and maximize your investment with your healthcare business.

Are you exploring ways to maximize your results? Whether it is recruitment and retention, sales, customer service, or marketing; maximize your return on investment with your home care, hospice, home health or assisted living business. Schedule a discovery meeting with Sixth Sense Solutions today. Visit our appointment calendar, click here at Schedule My Discovery Call 

Call us at 949-241-6690, or you can reach our team via email at info@SixSenseSolutions.com

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