Handling That *&#%! Customer

by Nancy Bird

As a business owner, you try to practice that old adage – the customer is always right – no matter how wrong that customer really is. You put on your smile, bite your tongue, and do your very best handling that customer. But what really happens with this customer is you bottle up that angst and frequently let it out on your next customer.

We’ve all had the experience of being next in line at the grocery store behind a customer who chooses to use the express aisle even though they have a cart loaded to the brim with groceries and some that even need a price check. We admire the clerk who is handling this customer with patience and grace. Finally that person has been served and is merrily on their way and we put our six items on the counter and find ourselves face to face with an exploding clerk who practically takes our head off.

This is a clerk who has served an impossible customer, but is unable to keep their temper under control and we get the wrath. This is too often what we do also.

So what is the answer to this problem?

There are several things that can be done to help you past this situation:

  • With your particular customer, take a moment to take a good look at what you are dealing with. If this person irritates you on the first meeting, in fairness to them, you need to consider the possibility that they are having a very bad day and don’t even realize they are behaving in such a manner. In this case, to be fair, you should try to maintain your pleasant demeanor and serve that customer as best as you are able. However if this is the same behavior every time you deal with this customer, this requires a different approach.
  • One way to solve this problem, if you have a team, is to try having another team member deal with this customer. Sometimes, personalities clash so much there is no hope of ever being able to deal with this customer. That doesn’t mean you are wrong or the customer is wrong, but simply means your two personalities will probably never be able to get along with each other. But another employee might not feel this person is as annoying as you do.
  • Another way of dealing with this customer is waiting until you are finished with them and then take a few minutes to step away from the situation and talk to a friend who understands why you are screaming at them and knows you are just frustrated and need a person to vent on. If you do have such a friend, be sure that you do something nice for them every once in a while to thank them for being your “sounding” board. Friends like these are rare and need to be appreciated.
  • If your business involves scheduling customers, try scheduling that customer for the first or last appointment of the day. Knowing when you have to have on your ‘super sensitive hat’ can allow you to be ready for that customer. Try not to think about that person during the rest of your day.

If none of these suggestions help, then it may be time to gracefully lose that customer.

Now before you panic over losing a customer, remember the lesson we all could learn from the Santa in the movie, “Miracle on 34th Street”. If you remember, Santa started suggesting to parents other stores where the present their child wanted could be found. He even sent Macy’s customers to their largest competitor, Gimbels. Initially the management at Macy’s was beside themselves until they heard customers talking about how wonderful it was that the store did this. Some customers became regulars at Macys because of this action.

The loss of one customer does not mean the end of your business. It may just mean there will be room for more as you see how much more time and energy you have to help other customers. Try to find another business for that *!#+! customer that is driving you crazy and recommend that the other business is far better suited to serve their needs.

 
Nancy Bird has years of experience handling customers and conflict resolution. She managed the family roofing and siding business in the early 70’s, was an Avon District Manager in the late 70’s, a customer service rep at Avis in the 80’s – all of which were easy-peasy compared to raising four daughters, especially with Suzanne as the oldest daughter.

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