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How to respectfully deal with a consistently late client

When your day is stacked with client meetings, one late appearance can throw everything off – here’s how to stay on track.

person looking at watch representing failed transactions

Anyone existing in real estate has had to contend with the issue of a late client. Tardiness has the capacity to screw up your whole day’s schedule, and while that has a price somewhere, you may still feel obliged to put on a smiling face to keep your client happy.

Allison Green of Ask a Manager offers a more proactive set of solutions to meet both your client’s needs and your own.

A lack of punctuality on your client’s part can come in a variety of forms, but even a delay of a few minutes throws a wrench in the rest of your day, meaning your other clients can end up waiting on you—something for which they certainly don’t pay you.

If your late client skews toward the other side of the spectrum and misses an entire meeting, that comes with its own set of issues.

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Green posits that the first step should be to make sure your time is being valued —meaning, in this case, that you kindly communicate the financial value of being present for the fully allotted time, and that you’ll protect their time when you’re together and won’t allow other clients to infringe on your time together.

Bringing up a client’s tardiness may feel unnecessary, especially if they’re already apologetic, but it may be that they have trouble making their scheduled time for completely valid reasons; offering them the option to change their appointment slot or reduce the amount of time they need for their meetings with you puts the control in their hands while communicating firmly the concept that they are, in fact, not making the best use of your time (or theirs).

According to Green, it’s also best to avoid accommodating last-minute meetings for otherwise late clients:

“…if you carve out time for [the client] on short notice and then he doesn’t show up…[t]hat’s disrespectful of your time, and it would be reasonable to decide you won’t do that for him anymore. Plus, if he thinks that he can schedule time with you at the last minute whenever he needs it, that might be making him more cavalier about keeping the regular weekly meetings.” 

Green similarly recommends that this conversation serve to frame the client’s lateness as a work problem to fix, not a naughty behavior to be corrected.

“The advantage of that language is that you’re pointing out the problem, but you’re not scolding – you’re framing it as ‘let’s solve this problem,’” she concludes.

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Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove's Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.


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