Let’s face it; the goal of any business owner is to get repeat business. That is the only way to create a sustainable business. Sometimes dealing with customers can be to toughest part of running a small business. Customers can become difficult to work with for a number of reasons, but you have to have a way to handle it. Things won’t go perfectly all the time, but spending unanticipated hours dealing with angry customers will drain a hole in your pocket. Keep in mind; it’s not what the customer says or does, but how you react to it that will ultimately determine the long-term impact on your business. Does this sound familiar? “I need another revision” or “We’re going to pay your invoice net 60”. What about the customer who wants a refund after they’ve eaten the whole sandwich or the customer who suddenly thinks your work is not up to par and doesn’t want to pay you after the fifth revision. These are common challenges that every business will face.
Remember, what the customer really wants most often is to be heard. They want empathy. They’re expressing dissatisfaction for the service received or the expectations on how the relationship would work. Try not to bring your personal feelings into the conversation. Look for a win-win, so that you don’t make an enemy for life. Also empower your employees to fix problems themselves under $50 dollars if you are a retailer. I’ve been in business for 15 years now, and I’ve seen it all and I have some strategies to handle tough customers.
SmallBizLady’s 10 Rules for Managing Tough Customers:
- Listen First. Let the customer know that they’ve been heard and action will be taken to correct the problem.
- Don’t be quick to offer a refund. Don’t offer a refund; offer them a chance to try the service again for a discount if there was a failure on delivering what was promised.
- Do your homework. Ask for a reference from other vendors before your start working with a company to find out if they are easy to work with and pay on time.
- Start with a signed agreement and a 50% deposit. Having your “business handled” gives you leverage and negotiating power if a client becomes difficult to work with.
- Don’t discount your price. People will always ask you to cut your price. Don’t do it unless there is a reason that brings other upside potential that’s guaranteed like a long-term contract, high-end testimonial or additional referral business.
- Start the relationship with a kick-off meeting. Use the meeting to make sure that all stakeholders have the same understanding of deliverables, work-plan and payment terms.
- Manage Customer Expectations. Have the client sign and agree upon the project time-line.
- Track customer communication. Mange your team communications and deliverables through a web-based software like Basecamp.
- Avoid rework. Agree in advance on the number of revisions the client will see before additional budget will be required.
- Insist on a single point of contact. You can only have one person communicating with your company on behalf of the client.
As business owners, our core function is the serve the customer. When it seems like nothing that you do is right, forget about maintaining the business relationship– save your sanity and fire the client.
“Woman Listening To Complaint” courtesy of Stuart Miles / www.freedigitalphotos.net
What strategies have you used to handle tough customers?