The Overcontrolling and Micro-managing customer

client relationships micro managers Jun 17, 2020

I have been meaning to write this article for a long time. Every contractor will in his lifetime experience that customer that seems to be micro managing the whole project. The over controlling customer who seems to be obsessed with every little detail. Every time he sees you, he calls you over to point out some random detail to distract you from your work... If you are not available he will find someone else on your team to harass.

The Micro managing customer is not always visible from the start. When you first meet him he tends to be very polite and friendly. He wants to build up good rapport with you so that you take him on as client. When he first starts requesting little things from you shrug it off as just something that's important fo your customer.

But slowly this customer chips away at you, one chisel at a time. He calls you all the time with no respect for weekends or late hours. He will of course, always apologize for calling you and interrupting your day (sometimes he might even acknowledge that he has been calling you a lot!)

Occasionally he will shower you with compliments and tell you what a great professional you are. He will brag about all his connections and how he has already spoken to them about your work. He uses the promise of referrals to hold out a carrot for you.  

Slowly but surely this guy has taken away all your power. You start to regret for taking on the project. You feel a lump in your throat every time you see an unread email or a call from him. You get angry every time you drive by a location that reminds you of him

So how do you deal with such toxic people? How can you reverse the stakes?

Over the years I have come up with a few techniques that can be effective with micro managing customers. I used to have this person on my staff who was a real babble mouth. He talked so much he was a constant source of slowdown on construction sites. However when I had a micro managing client I would unleash him to outbabble the micro managing customer! I did not even pay attention to their conversation. I really did not care what they were talking about. As long as the annoying client would get off my ass.

Another technique to use with micro managing clients is to slow down the momentum. If he starts asking for too much crap, stop the project for a few day. Send your staff to a different site for a few days so that he loses his edge. Send an email explaining that you need to change the terms and conditions. Always remember that micro managers may suck away your energy, but they also need their own energy hit. They may create a sense of urgency to keep you on site, and this is when you are most powerful. Show that you are in no hurry to finish the project.

Take away their oxygen and you may be able to reverse the situation
But sometimes its best to cut your losses and walk away. One toxic customer can sap weeks and months out of your business. It will make you a moody boss. Your staff will resent him and they will also resent your moodiness. 

What are your experiences with these types of customers? How do you deal with them?