It’s easy to love your customers. At least the ones who are easily satisfied, pay on time, and laud your services.
But sometimes you serve customers from hell. In fact, there’s a whole list of sites dedicated to client-based nightmares. Customers From Hell, an online assemblage of anonymous client “horror stories”, allows designers and small business owners to rant about difficult clients. Not Always Right allows nameless employees and service workers to do the same.
But customers help you bring home the bacon and that means you’re forced to deal with their annoying idiosyncrasies.
To help, we’ve outlined how to deal with four diabolical customers:
The “I’m Always Right” Customer
A customer-centric culture is critical. However, the customer isn’t always right. I was sitting at the take-out bar of my local café yesterday and a lady, who was in a serious hurry, demanded her food to be ready ASAP. The restaurant manager apologetically informed her that her order was never called in and placed.
She argued saying she called the restaurant 15 minutes ago, that the server staff is lazy and scatterbrained. After a few minutes of back-and-forth, she realized the placed the order at the restaurant’s other location, ten miles away. She quarreled with the staff for minutes until finally realizing she was in the wrong.
How to Deal: Abiding by the “customer is always right” philosophy is good for revenue, but it also permits irate (and incorrect) customers to demand or say abusive things. In the café case, the manager dealt with her accusations, and instead of telling her to leave because she was obviously wrong, he told the chefs to quickly fire up her food.
When you come across a know-it-all customer, put your pride down and solve the problem. But if he or she is mistreating your employees, you can always let that customer go. Gordon Bethune of Continental Airlines made it a point to put his employees first, and when necessary, lost business if the customers were being stupid.
The Indecisive Customer
Should I buy the shirt or should I wait? Should I get it in red or blue? If you’re in retail, you get to see consumer indecision in action. Which can be incredibly frustrating when you have other duties. This annoyance can be multiplied for other professionals. Take designers for example, who spend hours or days making physical changes to something (be it websites, architecture, interiors or landscapes), only to receive feedback from the client who thinks “they’re not sure if they really like it this way or how it was before”.
How to Deal: It’s your job to help your clientele make a decision. You, by job title, have more expertise in your product of service than they do. Dr. David Welman, psychologist and internationally known expert on marketing and selling jewelry, offers a five-step process to helping faltering customers make a decision:
- Acknowledge their indecision. Ask questions like “Is there something you’re unsure of?” or “You look like you could use some help. How can I help you?”
- Try to uncover the reason they’re procrastinating. Try asking, “Tell me what you’re thinking.”
- Clarify the core cause of the indecision. Restate their concerns in a simple form similar to “I see, so on one end of the spectrum you prefer…on the other you feel you should choose something else….”
- Point out the prevention. What is preventing them from making a choice? Is it money? Fear of commitment? No return policy?
- Eliminate these obstacles. Offer a solution. If it’s money or a fear of commitment, reveal your installment plan or return policy. Ease their anxiety with great customer service.
The Angry Big-Mouth
We all love to hate the Yelp ranters, who write novel-length online reviews about poor customer service. They take up too much online space and inadvertently affect the decisions of potential customers. Unfortunately, 89% of customers will never return to a company due to poor customer service and they’re also 2 times more likely to share their bad experience than a positive one. Misery loves (talking about a bad) company right?
How to deal: If you’re dealing with haters in the form of online criticism and low social media reviews, don’t hate back. If the tirade occurs via social media or Yelp, personally comment or message the complainer with a sincere apology and a customer service number. Deal with it before the comment goes viral. Make sure you don’t retaliate in haste and decide how to offer a solution to their issue.
The Procrastinating Payer
According to Rocket Lawyer’s survey, one in four companies have issues collecting money from customers. These types of customers may not be obnoxious in person, but your cash flow may go arid because of them. And it can be awkward asking for money. They may be dealing with unfortunate financial issues, and pressing too hard may ruin a positive relationship.
How to Deal: Before taking on dead-beat clients, perform a background check. Sprint Wireless, my beloved phone service provider, quickly performed a credit check to make sure I could be trusted with making payments (I was) and you can do the same, depending on your line of work. Secondly, create a contract and bill clients consistently. Only 29 percent of companies call late-paying customers. Don’t wait too long to notify them and send out “first contact notices”. Wait to pull out the big guns, but when it’s necessary, have your attorney send them a letter and/or employ a debt-collections agency.
Always aim to give customers the ultimate experience. Assuage, guide, mediate and remind them all with the overarching goal of making them a repeat customer. It’s 6-7 times more costly to attract a new customer than it is to retain an old one, so do the work up front and deal with the diabolical customer.