Dealing With Difficult Customers
It’s not easy running a business today. A single customer complaint, handled improperly, can send your business into a tailspin. At the same time, if you respond to every single customer complaint, you end up wasting time and money chasing an unsolvable problem.
Enter Noah Fleming and Shawn Veltman, who have written a new book, Dealing with Difficult Customers: How to Turn Demanding, Dissatisfied, and Disagreeable Clients Into Your Best Customers. I recently had the opportunity to talk with them about their work in dealing with customers.
When the Customer Is Blatantly Wrong
You say that, “The customer is not always right. In fact, the customer is often blatantly wrong.” Share your perspective on this. How did “the customer is always right” develop and where did it go wrong?
All of your readers will have their own favorite “unreasonable or crazy customer stories.” In our experience, after complaining about accountants and management, it’s in most salespeople’s top five favorite cocktail party conversation topics.
We start our book with a list of completely clueless, hilarious, and real customer complaints.
Our favorites are:
- “I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local convenience store does not sell proper biscuits, like custard creams or ginger nuts.”
- “Although the brochure said there was a ‘fully equipped kitchen,’ there was no egg slicer in the drawers.”
- “We went on holiday to Spain and had a problem with the taxi drivers, as they were all Spanish.”
Funny when you read them, but scary when you hear that these are 100% real complaints left by real customers. Is the customer right to be upset that the local store doesn’t sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts? Or a customer who complains of too many Spanish people in Spain? Of course not. In these examples, the customers are blatantly nuts.
This idea that “the customer is always right” is one of those things that’s easy for management to tell their frontline employees; it sounds good in practice, and it leads to tremendous wasted time, effort, and often burnout. Because, sometimes, you really do have to fire customers – one of the things we talk about at length in the book. Telling your people that the customer is always right is asking them to close their eyes to reality, and when you ask them to do that, it hurts your ability to ask them to do anything else. After all, with some of the complaints above, how could those customers be right? What does it mean to treat the customer as if they’re right?