It has been said that “the customer is always right.” Well we all know that cannot be categorically said. Customers like all humans make mistakes, have bad days, and sometimes are just difficult. What is true, however, is that “the customer is always the customer.” In short your profits and ultimately your job depends on them.
So how do you deal with a customer who is difficult. Rule one, don’t be difficult back. It is a hard order, but one that fits into every level of conflict resolution. Listen carefully to what they are saying and/or asking for. If it is in your remit give it to them. If what they are asking for is “above your pay grade,” still hear them out and try to find a compromise, or someone who can address their issue.
We recently had one such exchange. [And trust me this is not just a blog of sour grapes]. We had arrived at a hotel at the time we had stated on our booking form to be told the room wasn’t ready. Fair enough these things happen. But the receptionist went on [rather than letting it go] by saying that in fact rooms are never ready at that time, and we were at fault for arriving to soon. Oops, herein lies conflict. The long and short of it is that despite the [eventual] intervention of a manager, we left. A bad start or first impression will cost you customers.
Winning hearts and minds has been a catch phrase in recent years. It means getting others to see and understand your point of view. You may not in the end agree any more than you did at the start, but at least an avenue of understanding has been opened.
The Apostle Paul new this about “selling” a message. In I Corinthians 9 he writes,
“19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
Whether selling a product, and idea, or a service – in the end people need to connect with you the provider before they will ever connect with the thing you are promoting.
Key points then: Listen (don’t argue), be flexible (where you can), be prepared to refer it upwards (not just hold you party line), and be human (officiousness is easy, but it seldom makes people feel valued).
Just some thoughts.