Some customers are so demanding that you’d like nothing better than to email them “farewell” and send them on their way. No doubt you’ve had customers who never know exactly what they want. As a result, you spend hours helping them make a decision. Even worse are those customers who are never happy. Such difficult customers not only demoralize your team, they can impact their productivity by placing unreasonable demands on them, limiting their ability to service other customers.
Still despite the challenge in working with highly demanding customers, you struggle over the decision to say goodbye. Maybe you feel you need the business at this time. It also may be that despite the challenges they present, some customers can help you build expertise in new areas that will attract other business. If a customer has significant standing in the industry doing business with them can help raise your visibility, too.
If you decide that it’s not time to cut the cord with a difficult customer; you’ll need to find ways to manage the relationship so that you and your team are not in constant reactive mode. Here are tips for dealing with some of the most common problems associated with difficult customers:
Don’t know what they want: Once you recognize you have a customer who doesn’t know exactly what they want or need, take charge. Don’t wait for the customer to come to you. Schedule a meeting or series of them – in person or over video conferencing, which is easy to deploy these days even over a mobile device – to identify customer goals both near and long term. This will help you figure out what among your offerings will provide the best solution. In between meetings, check in with your customer to see how things are moving along.
Keep you on the phone forever: When every call turns into several hours on the phone, you’ve got to set boundaries. Establish at the outset how long the call can take (send an agenda in advance if necessary). If you can’t get to everything, offer to follow up in email.
Everything is a fire drill: Chalk it up to disorganization or inability to see the big picture, but with some customers things always tend to be last minute and are often a fire drill. You can help customers like these stay more focused for everyone’s sake by providing a list of everything that needs to be done with a time frame. If need be, send a reminder by email or text to make sure things are on track.
Quick to argue or get angry: Some people always seem unhappy. Start by letting these customers have their say and listen attentively, aiming to build rapport while you do. Indicate that you understand their issues and express your desire to resolve the problem. Once a customer understands that your intention is to not argue but to help, you can build trust to prevent such incidents in the future. The key is to not take things personally and never get angry or upset in response.
Always want something extra: There are customers who want to see how much more they can get from your small business. Sometimes you’ll just want to agree to add some additional service or product or lower a price. To avoid this happening constantly, set limits with customers. Indicate what you are willing to do under certain circumstances. If the requests continue, offer to provide a new budget with the additional time or items factored into the proposal.
These are just some of the things that can make customers difficult to work with. In some cases, you’ll figure how out how to deal with the situation. However, if the time and effort to manage the relationship is negatively impacting your small business, it’s best to wave goodbye.