Employee Feedback

How to Give Your Client Feedback Without Sounding Like a Jerk

June 20, 2018
November 7, 2023
Lattice Team

We joined forces with Gusto to build a practical feedback guide for small businesses. Read the rest of the series and learn how to give non-jerky feedback to your coworker, boss, and client.

It’s not easy giving feedback—especially to the people who pay your bills.

Adam Kunes has firsthand experience with the particular weirdness of giving clients feedback. He’s the owner of Have Fun Do Good, a small business that gathers groups of strangers to travel and volunteer together. As can be expected from group travel, sometimes things get out of hand—which has led to some sticky client situations.

“During one of our first trips, a few participants had a little too much fun with adult beverages,” Kunes remembers. He and his tour group were staying on a houseboat in Lake Powell when six participants were drinking too much and blasting Justin Bieber, annoying the rest of his clients.

Kunes confronted his partying participants and asked them to “quiet down and go easy on the booze,” he says. “We’re all about having fun and letting loose, but safety is our No. 1 priority. I had to go Dad-mode in the morning and tell those people they couldn’t hike that day.”

It was tricky because his clients pay him to have relaxing and meaningful vacations. Kunes says the incident, while quickly managed, was a learning experience on how to effectively give feedback to clients—without making them hate him.

1. Why you need to give your clients feedback

2. How to actually give useful feedback

3. Feedback templates to steal

Why you need to give your clients feedback

Yes, clients are the ones paying your bills. But that doesn’t excuse them from behavior that could put your business at risk, make an employee feel uncomfortable, cause your business to lose money, or add too much stress to your life.

Here’s the key: Giving clients feedback won’t destroy your business.

If you’re having trouble with a client, it’s your job to give them feedback before things get out of control. For Kunes, the safety of his trip participants depended on how he delivered that feedback.

Giving clients feedback is a big deal. If you don’t finesse your ability to give feedback, you may end up having to fire your clients instead—which is a much bigger ball of awkwardness.

To read the rest of this article, head over to the Gusto Framework blog.