By Bryan Orr
When I first started my business I was terrified of getting bad reviews. I had heard about how unreasonable customers can wreck your business with their nasty reviews and false claims.
Ten years later, we have had no BBB complaints and only four negative reviews out of hundreds of positive reviews. I have learned to stop fearing unreasonable customers by using these five tried and true tactics.
Stop Making Them Wrong
Most people don’t like feeling as if they are being convinced of something, especially if you are directly making them wrong. I’m almost certain this is where the saying, “the customer is always right” comes from. We all know that in actuality, the customer isn’t always right, and there are ways to bridge the gap other than lying and agreeing with their claim, or growing bitter about their perceived problem.
Making someone wrong means directly opposing what they are saying head on, which is almost never necessary. We recently had a customer call in saying that they did not approve of particular work to be done at his home (and our tech swore he did by them rightly). Instead of disputing what the customer is saying we asked, “Did you sign the invoice?” when he replied that he did we asked, “Why did you sign the invoice and pay the bill if you did not approve the work?” Yes, he is still unhappy about the question, but it’s using indirect logic instead of directly opposing his claim. In this case the customer calmed down and the relationship was salvaged.
Ask “What Can We Do?”
Time after time we find when someone is ranting that they really aren’t upset at us, they are just upset in GENERAL and we showed up. After we establish an empathetic stance we will often ask, “What would you like us to do to resolve this?” In many cases the customer really doesn’t want anything other than to blow off steam and have no further ideas or direct complaints.
While it is never a good idea to talk about policies and fine print with a tough customer, it is appropriate to discuss agreements. We have many customers who will call us once a product is out of warranty and state, “It should last longer” and expect us to cover it anyway. This is a good time to pull out the proposal and ask, “Do you still have your copy, because I would like to go over it with you.”
Stay Crazy Calm
The louder a customer gets the calmer you should get. Make it a game to see how ridiculously calm, confident and pleasant you can remain. Many customers will stay angry while talking to you, but once they calm down and think about how impeccably you behaved, it will often leave them feeling ashamed about the way they treated you. We have had numerous such incidents where the customer called back later and apologized.
Let Them Leave
Ultimately, if you have a customer who is unreasonable to the point of not being able to work it out fairly simply, you will need to cut ties. We have a standing policy that we refund any genuinely unreasonable customer and then inform them that we have “closed their account.” It may seem counterintuitive but in these days of Yelp and Google reviews it is best to give these types of unreasonable people no story to tell.
Do you have an “Unreasonable Customer” policy in your business?