New Ways To Deal With The Difficult Customer - October 3, 2017

We've all experienced the loud, cranky, very demanding customer. He requests a price in which there's little to no margin. He demands his product be delivered in an impossible timeframe. He wants credit terms that are unreasonable. And while you want to live by a "the-customer-is-always-right" philosophy, this particular client can be a detriment to your business.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share these six tips from business writer Minda Zetlin on dealing with difficult customers.

1. Empathize. Zetlin says that you must remember that the customer believes that the unreasonable request is, in fact, quite reasonable. To turn this situation around, begin by standing in your customer's shoes for a moment. Knowing what they know, and not what you know, does this seem like a reasonable request? Fully understanding where they're coming from is the necessary first step to solving the problem.

2. Lift the veil. Once you understand your customer's point of view, you need to help them understand yours. One of the best ways to do this is to share inside information. If the customer is being demanding about price, for example, explain the cost of manufacturing that product or the materials that go into that product.

3. Ask why. Why does this project need to be completed by next week? Why do they want you to reduce your price? What problem do they have that has led to this request, and how else might you help them solve it? What kinds of offers are they getting from your competitors and are those offers really the same as what you're offering? By asking key questions, you can get to the root of their frustration and potentially offer another solution.

4. Weigh the consequences. What are the consequences of saying no, and perhaps losing the customer, compared to saying yes? If what they've asked is flat-out impossible, and you fail to find an acceptable alternative, then you won't have a choice. But often it's more nuanced-you could comply with their request if you cut your profit margin completely, pull an all-nighter, or agree to another concession. There may be a different right answer in every situation. You need to determine if the customer is worth the cost to do business.

5. Consider a one-time deal. If you really don't want to lose the customer, and you can't find an alternative that is good for both of you, then consider taking the hit. Tell them you can offer special consideration because of your history together. Emphasize that this is a one-time-only deal that won't be repeated, and stick to it if they ask again. Otherwise, you will lose credibility. There are risks to this approach. You may be merely delaying the inevitable if the customer leaves the next time the same situation arises. An even bigger risk is that your other customers hear about it and ask for similar concessions. But sometimes this is the best among bad choices.

6. Apologize. If you just can't agree to the demand, then make sure to apologize. After all, you are genuinely regretful that you can't make them happy. And an apology can go a long way toward preserving a relationship. One caveat—if the customer's request made you angry, take a deep breath, take a walk, play a video game, or do whatever you need to do to get over that feeling before interacting with the customer. Otherwise, your relationship-building overtures won't come off as sincere.

Source: Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and speaker, co-author of The Geek Gap, and former president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. She lives in Snohomish, Washington.

filed under October 2017
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