In business, not all your customers will be pleasant. In fact, some of your customers may be downright mean, insensitive, or harsh. While this may seem like a headache or a problem, if you are prepared for these types of customers, you might actually make more money or take your business to the next level. It’s all about how you play the hand dealt you.
No one has the right to be abusive to you or your staff. I have dealt with a few of those types, and the sooner they are gone, the better. There is no reason to put up with customers who are abusive or threatening. However, most difficult people are not sociopaths, they are just…difficult. They may be more demanding than the typical customer, or require more hand holding. Some will want everything done yesterday or make round after round of changes. Most difficult people want to be treated as though they are special—the most important person in the universe, or at least in your universe.
Let’s face it, most of us are creatures of comfort. We love convenience and we want everything to come easy. We want our customers to be easy to deal with and to make our lives easier. But if you have the right expectations and you focus on spotting the opportunities behind whatever problems you may have with difficult customers, you might just be positioning yourself to converting such ‘hard’ customers into your most loyal supporters. It’s all about having an open mind, being flexible, and focusing on what’s important: generating sales and establishing relationships. Keep the following in mind when dealing with the difficult people you encounter in business.
Your expectations set your outcomes
If you expect things to be easy, you are only setting yourself up to be frustrated. You will be disappointed when you find out the hard way that not everyone is nice and pleasant to deal with. You may feel that you’re entitled to be treated a certain way. Well, an entitlement mentality, especially when you’re dealing with many different types of customers and personalities, can only lead to frustration, anger, and bad outcomes.
Instead, right from the beginning, assume that you are going to face some difficult people. Once you do, your expectations will change. Instead of expecting things to be easy or for people to be nice and polite, you won’t be thrown off your game when you encounter someone who is harsh, mean, demanding or rude. Since you already expected some nastiness, you can let their unpleasant exterior or words pass, and you can focus on what’s important: getting their business. This is crucial because every difficult customer can be an opportunity in disguise.
See the opportunity behind the difficulty
Make no mistake about it, dealing with difficult people is an opportunity. How? Well, besides the opportunity to improve your karma, they probably deal with your competitors with the same rough manners, unreasonable demands and harsh way of talking, and they won’t like it any more than you do. Your competition might not be able to close them or might get turned off by them. Don’t take their bad behavior personally. By being patient when dealing with difficult people, you might be able to get customers your competition can’t or won’t get. This puts you at a competitive advantage. Less for the competition. More for you. Moreover, by building your customer service, sales, and marketing systems with an eye toward the fact that you will sometimes have to deal with difficult people, you increase the chances that exchanges that otherwise might have ended badly will result in sales or other positive outcomes.
Difficult people may become the most loyal customers
Look at the situation from the point of view of your difficult customers. They probably feel misunderstood, isolated, or neglected. When you refuse to get scared off by the difficulty of dealing with them, you stand out from other businesses they’ve dealt with. Your business starts looking real good because you do the one thing these difficult customers are looking for: you listen.
When dealing with difficult people, remember that they are probably very unhappy people. When you reach out and make it clear that you care and you refuse to get thrown off by their behavior, your business stands out head and shoulders above others they’ve dealt with. If you are able to deliver the level of customer service and product or service quality they are looking for, your chances of getting customers who are loyal for life increases. Think of it this way: you treated them well despite their attitude, but do you think they will get the same treatment from your competitors? Probably not, so they will want to do business with you. Over time, their behavior may even improve (at least a little).
Charge enough to make it worthwhile
Dealing with difficult customers can be costly. They take more of your time, they may demand that work be done over or make last minute changes, and they introduce other “surprises” that can make working with them expensive. That’s okay, though. Just charge them enough that their projects are still profitable. You might even add some extra profit to make up for the aggravation factor. Will charging a lot more make them take their business elsewhere? Maybe. If someone else is willing to take them on for less money, let them. But if they become your customer, knowing that they are more profitable than other customers can help you keep a smile on your face even when they are being demanding or difficult.
As the old saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Dealing with difficult people doesn’t have to be a negative experience for your business.