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Eight Steps To Detoxify Rude Voice Over
Clients And Respond To Vicious Attacks

By J. Christopher Dunn

Voice Talent

You've completed a project that should satisfy your customer's needs. You worked hard to keep all of his directions and desires in mind while creating his voice over or other freelance deliverable. 

After you send it to him, Mr. Crankypants promptly responds either with a call or email to unload his unhappiness about what he received, and he is not nice about it. 

What to do?


Smile. Stay focused. Read or listen for clues why they are unhappy and above all else, smile. 

Don't let Crankypants bring you down to his or her level. Be determined to remain positive during your interaction. If replying in email, keep the tone of your message positive. When talking with them on the phone, keep a warm, honest smile in your voice. 

And if you're dealing with your client in person, keep the corners of your mouth up in a genuine smile. Difficult? Yes, but so important to do.


Allow your client to do the talking, and ask open-ended questions to keep the conversation moving forward. 

Everybody has an occasional bad day. Don't stop Mr. Crankypants from opening up and expressing his feelings. It could be that he is unsure how to continue. 

Maybe a peer gave him super critical feedback, and he was strongly encouraged to unload on you. Maybe Mr. C. got a ticket on the way to work and your project was the first thing he saw when he sat down at his desk. 

When it's your turn to speak, ask specifically what he doesn't like. Collect as much information as possible.


Apologize to the client and validate their feelings.

One of the quickest ways to defuse a perturbed client is to apologize for what they perceive as the thing making them angry. Validate their beliefs. You don't have to agree about the complaint, but let Crankypants know that you understand his feelings and you hear what he is saying.


Continue to be neutral in tone.

Attempting to match Mr. Crankypants's current nasty disposition will not have a positive affect. Manage the situation so that emotions are filtered and information gathering continues. 

Using language that is positive or neutral rather than negative will go a long way in getting to a resolution. Smile.


While Crankypants may be venomous in general about something he believes is not right, pay attention for the one thing that has him in tantrumonious knots. 

When you let him talk or respond freely, he will get around to expressing the exact issue. Take notes while talking to Mr. Crankypants on the phone and take a moment to sift through his words in email.


Dial in your emotions.

When or if you find that dealing with Mr. Crankypants is becoming more than you can deal with, pause the interaction. Let Crankypants know that you're looking into his issue and will need time to respond. 

This will likely give Crankypants time to chill and you time to gather your thoughts. Don't become emotional, because doing so will be the first step in losing control of the situation. Remain emotionally intact.


Neutralize the offensive behavior.

While Mr. C. is making you crazy with stinky behavior, don't let your building negativity show. Regardless of what your third-grade math teacher told you, two negatives do not make a positive in this situation.

Continue to let Crankypants know that you understand why he is displeased.


Don't take it personally.

As freelancers, we are very close to the work we create. We put a lot of time and creative effort into almost everything we deliver. When Mr. Crankypants is messing up your day with his indelicate attitude, try to remember it's not about you but about the deliverable. 

That's probably the hardest thing to accomplish out of this list of eight, but it's important to compartmentalize your personality from your work. The attack is on your work, not you.


When you receive a scathing email from a client who goes to great lengths to define your skill or product as anything but valuable, the temptation may be to volley back a reply that is equally nasty. 

Go ahead and type out the response. That's right. Create a new message and type away. Let that customer know you’re on to them. Make them feel diminished. Turn them to ashes with well-placed inflammatory words and combustible phrases. Type until you can type no more. That'll show 'em! 

Now, the secret is that after you're done typing, walk away and let the message simmer for 10 minutes or so. When you come back to the message, find the key on your keyboard labeled DELETE and press. The message goes to the trash along with your hurt, retaliatory feelings. 

You've gotten it off your chest and it's time to take care of the customer with professionalism. Refer to the first step in this article and respond.
J. Christopher Dunn is a professional voice actor who lives in the Pacific Northwest close to Seattle. He voices commercials, web demos, podcasts, product demonstrations, telephony projects and documentaries. His voice is described as friendly, warm and trustworthy - the guy next door or the voice of high profile corporate presentations. He also spends time with the Penn Cove Players, a Whidbey Island, WA troupe that performs original audio dramas, as we all as recreates old time radio shows in front of a live studio audience.

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Comments (3)
William Williams
3/19/2013 at 6:05 PM
After you let the client rant for a while, I have found it valuable to get very specific about what the problems are. Discuss each aspect of the job: is the tone of voice OK, how about the speed of the delivery? Etc. This helps because you will get several affirmations of what is RIGHT about the job.

Then develop a specific list of exactly what needs to be changed and how the client wants it. I then read that list back to them and say, "So if I make these changes, then we're good to go?" Almost always you'll get agreement on the specific changes. This prevents an endless cycle of guessing what the client needs.

Then when I deliver the finished job I inform them that I corrected "everything we agreed on" and itemize the list of corrections. This makes the correction process converge quickly.

Of course, for every 100 clients I work with there is someone who is just plain unreasonable or doesn't have a clue what they are doing or what they want. In that case I fire the client ... life is too short and this job is too artistic to tolerate negativity for negativities sake. There are plenty of great clients in the world.

Philip Banks
3/19/2013 at 6:28 AM
All wonderful advice but we also need to politely remind people where WE stand and where they stand.

During an ISDN session I worked with a foul mouthed, bad tempered producer. He was obviously under pressure so I simply did my job. No matter what I did it became clear he was not going to calm down, moderate his language or behaviour toward me.

"Alex" I said calmly." I think I owe you an apology"

"Oh what the **** is it NOW!" he snapped.

"At some point during the course of this session I must have given you the impresson is was ok for you to address me in the way you have been addressing me. Just to be clear, it isn't! I apologise for any misunderstanding."

Alex said he was going to abandon the session and dropped the lines.

About 10 minutes went by and my phone rang, it was Alex's boss.

"Philip, I've just had a chat with Alex about your attitude during the session and because of it we're not going to use you any more."

I smiled and asked one question.

"Would you be prepared to sign something to that effect?"
3/14/2013 at 1:29 PM
Such invaluable advice!!! Writing but NOT SENDING is a hard lesson to learn but makes you such a better person in the end and saves you from much embarrassment for letting your emotions get the best of you. Thanks for the great reminder and strategies.
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