Business Coach: On Dealing with Difficult Customers

(Originally published on June 19,  2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

By Ruben Anlacan Jr.

It has always been our belief that the customer is always right. But there are some customers who are just really difficult to deal with. They are the type who would rob you  of your patience, not to mention your sanity. Some would even go as far as treat you like trash—that is, if you let them.

While the objective of any business is to attract clients and treat them well, there are some who take advantage of customer service and push you to wits’ end. As purchasers, some customers believe they are gods and treat sellers as followers ready to do their bidding. There may be times when you wish these people do not exist, but the fact is that you have to learn to deal with them.

There are different types of customers, and you may already have encountered some of them:

• A client asking you several times for a meeting, only to learn of the cancellation when you are already in the venue.

• A client promising to give you orders, but only if you give high rebates. This is the only way you I can get the contract, but you feel guilty of entering into a ridiculously priced deal.

• A client you have been prospecting for six months now, but who still doesn’t know your name or your company’s. This clearly shows a lack of interest.

• A client asking for quotations for over a year, and yet a sale remains elusive.

• A client requesting illicit deals or trades, such as giving you the contract in exchange for sex.

• A client asking for personal favors, like asking to be driven home, be given gadgets, or asking you to pay for his/her trips abroad.

• A client who does not know what he/she wants, changing the specifications of a project everyday and you are already having difficulty in keeping up with the modifications.

• A client who is always complaining that you did not do the project as specified, and always threatening to replace you with a more efficient supplier.

There are other examples to add to this list. The fact is that there will always be clients who are more difficult to handle than others. But if you become choosy with accepting

clients, you could also end up having no customers at all. The general rule here is to learn how to deal with your difficult clients. The market is a jungle; and if you don’t know the kind of beast you have to work with, your business’ survival might end up moot.

Here are some tips on dealing with difficult customers:

• List your clients, and write your experience with each of them. Make plans on how you react the next time you transact with them.

• Always have a contract of agreement signed. This way, whenever a client complains, you can show him/her that the project was done as specified. This would also serve as a guide to ensure that procedures or protocols were followed in the completion of the project.

• Dress professionally and conservatively. You would get fewer indecent proposals if you present yourself as smart and respectable.

• Learn when to say “No”. If you believe you cannot meet the deadline, say so. If you think you can’t stomach what is being asked of you, politely decline the offer.

You cannot really get away with working with hard-to-manage customers. But come to think of it, some of your difficult clients are probably the ones helping you strive to be more competitive. Listen to what they have to say, as they can also give you valuable inputs to improve your business.

In my experience, many of the previously intolerable clients have turned out to be very pleasant persons once we have broken the ice. Their intimidating demeanor was just a facade to gain negotiating leverage.

Remember that if you develop the knack for dealing with difficult customers, you already have the advantage of winning over your competitors who cannot handlethem. Check mate!

Business and management consultant Ruben Anlacan, Jr. is the president of  BusinessCoach, Inc. and a resource speaker for various business topics. He discusses overviews and tips for business from the point of view of a small- or medium-scale entrepreneur who has started several successful enterprises. Those who wish to ask questions or to make comments may visit http://entrepcoach.blogspot.com or e-mail entrepcoach@gmail.com.

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

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Posted on August 31, 2011, in Business Agenda Classifieds Columns, BusinessCoach and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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