Dealing with Difficult Customers & Clients
As we are all aware, our biggest difficulties and frustrations tend to come from people rather than things. Let’s agree to view that as the inevitable flipside to all their good features. Now, while we are in this ‘think positive’ frame of mind, let’s consider the customers or clients to whom you are trying to provide your products and services. Just as in conflict with anyone else, if you genuinely strive to understand their position and clearly explain your own then you will be on the right track. However, with customers and clients there are a few additional considerations.
First of all, the customer is not always right. However, the customer always thinks that they are right which can amount to the same thing. If they have their facts wrong then you may be able point that out, but opinion is more difficult. They may say that you have not delivered what you promised. Perhaps low quality, insufficient quantity or just not on time. This may be true, it may not.
Where the facts of the dispute cannot be established you may be left with the choice of whether to give the customer the benefit of the doubt or not. Doing so may retain their business but also leave you feeling aggrieved. On the other hand, insisting that the customer is wrong may result in them walking away. Ultimately, you need to decide how critical it is to your business to retain their custom. Part of that decision will be to consider what damage (if any) they could do to your reputation.
You may think that you are the only source of an exclusive product or service and that your customer cannot go elsewhere. But beware: if that is the case then it is almost certainly a luxury that the customer could choose to do without. Also, the more successful your ‘unique’ product or service is, the more likely that competitors will soon spring up looking for a slice of your success; and probably offering it cheaper too. By all means be confident in your product, but don’t be complacent.
Sometimes a complaint will not be about the service or product but the person providing it. If you have employees responsible for customer relations then you need to ensure that they represent you appropriately. You may have standards and competence statements about what they do, but they also need clear guidance on how they do it. Does the customer feel respected by your representatives?
So what positive measures can you take?
Firstly, ensure understanding by being crystal clear on what you are promising, to what standard, and by when.
Secondly, build trust by listening to what the customer wants, demonstrating your expertise (without being condescending) and delivering what you have promised. Remember that for the customer, your marketing (which brought them to you in the first place) is a key part of your promise.
Think positive and remind yourself not to focus exclusively on the occasional difficult customer or client. Most are no trouble at all and are actually a joy to work with.
Always enjoy your clients!!
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