Dealing with difficult customers

B2T86N Businesswoman shouting at telephone. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.

By: Drew Sauveur

A colleague of mine, who owns her own small business, asked me this morning how to deal with a difficult client, who she hasn’t been able to satisfy.

It’s a difficult question, because we’ve all been there.  Every client and their reaction to any given situation is completely different.

Here’s my most recent experience:  A potential client asked me for a quote.  I supplied the quote, and then followed up after a day to ensure she received the quote.  Then 2 days later when I still hadn’t heard anything, I called again to follow up.  On my second call, I did reach the client, who scolded me for being too aggressive in calling twice in 1 week, and that although my price was competitive, she would prefer to work with someone who would give her the time to process what she was being given.

Here’s the 3 things that I did.

  • Listen! You may feel the need to defend yourself, or your business, but at that moment, the client needs to vent.  They may not actually be upset with you, it may be everything else in their life that is causing them stress, and you just happened to be the first person they are focusing on.  It’s not great, but it’s the best course of action.
  • Make the client feel as if you value their viewpoint. It may not necessarily be the right viewpoint, but it theirs and they are entitled to it.  If you immediately discredit or de-value their concerns, it will have the client shunning your company, or worse.  If it’s possible, try to explain your situation, and work through the complaint in as simple a manner as possible, IF possible.
  • Fix the problem as quickly as you can. This is extremely important if you are in a client facing situation, ie: a retail setting.  Having a disgruntled client is bad optics and discourages others from working with, or purchasing from you.  Fixing the problem may have you breaking some of your own rules perhaps, and it may not actually work (be prepared that there are some clients whom cannot be salvaged).  However, if it can be resolved, you may end up garnering a loyal client.

At the end of the day, expect that you can’t win them all, but if you’re at least trying, it’s a step in the right direction.