Top-Shelf Tip No. 140:

"As we grow as unique persons, we learn to respect the uniqueness of others."

Robert Schuller

How To Keep Your Cool With Difficult Customers

Every sales professional encounters difficult clients from time to time. How you choose to respond to these clients makes all the difference in whether you walk away frustrated or win a customer for life. Author Jason Aten says there are four key ways to handle difficult clients. We explore Aten's tips in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

Know the difference between difficult clients and clients with difficulty. Aten says there's a huge difference and it turns out that it changes everything about how you should respond. Most of your customers are reasonable people, but for one reason or another, you haven't met their expectations or they are having a difficult time. They aren't difficult people, but somehow their expectations aren't aligned with their experience. Whatever the cause, you can likely help them through it and make them happy. On the other hand, difficult customers are the ones who can't be made happy. There's just something about them, that no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, no matter what heroic effort you make, they won't be happy. It's not your problem that they are difficult.

Fire difficult clients. When you discover that you have a difficult customer, fire them. No questions asked. Too often, we entertain this abuse and allow these customers to suck valuable energy and life out of us. We think that, somehow, we might be able to make them happy, and we're afraid of what they might do if we don't coddle them. If there's nothing you can do for a difficult client, why on earth are you spending any time at all on the relationship? Aten says your responsibility is to fulfill any previous obligation to these customers and then terminate the relationship as professionally and swiftly as you can.

Understand that expectations are everything. You can often set yourself and your customer up for a win by taking time to clearly communicate expectations. From the very first encounter you have with a customer, your job is to create and manage their expectations. When you don't, they fill in the blanks based on their assumptions and understanding. Give them a clear understanding of your process, how you work, what they should expect and when, and how to reach you if they have questions.

By the time a client is asking you for something they thought they should already have, it's too late.

Take one for the team. Aten says that many times when we face a customer having a rough time, we get defensive about their problem and place blame and fault on them. Even if we think we've done everything right, the reality in front of us is that we failed to meet clients' expectations. In most cases, the best choice is to ask yourself what it will take to make this customer happy. Often the answer is much easier than it seems, and a simple apology for the misunderstanding, with an offer to make it right, goes a long way toward creating a win.

Sometimes, difficult circumstances give you an opportunity to create customers for life. If you face a difficult client, think about how you can apply the guidance above.

Source: Jason Aten writes the Tech Inc. column about the intersection of technology and business.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

 

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