Effective Customer Interaction
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Estimate Software- Printing software that helps you find the hidden treasure in your business.

Effective Customer Interaction

'Dealing with Difficult Customers'

By Johnny R. Duncan

The economy is not the bullet-speed train it was just one year ago, but it is chugging along. For most of us, business is good. However, things could change overnight if we lose focus on our most important ingredient of our business mix: customers.

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  • Customer satisfaction drives us to continue to provide goods and services. It is what pays the bills so we can have a place to come to work so we can provide more goods and services so we can pay the bills so we can... well, enough said. Unfortunately, there are times when we lose our focus on the customer. In their book, Customer-Centered Growth, Richard Whitely and Diane Hessen describe getting off the growth track as the "Downward Spiral".

    This "Downward Spiral" begins with a massive change in the organization followed by cost cutting and resource stretching. This leads to a demoralized work force which causes an internal focus. This internal focus automatically creates a disconnection from customers which leads to a lack of a capacity to grow. Finally, the lack of growth just leads to more cost-cutting and the cycle begins again and continues until the company dies or someone from management catches the trend and takes steps to correct the process.

    The simple solution is to just not get caught in the spiral, right? We know business is not that easy. There are times when it seems that you just canít please the customer. No matter how hard you try, it is very difficult to please a particular client. The following are five simple, time-proven techniques to help you with your "problem" customers. For some it may be just a reminder. For others though, it may mean changing your thought process for dealing with these types of customers.

    1.) Customer complaining and sounding confused: Set up lines of communication with your client. Make sure they know exactly who to contact when a question or problem arises. Itís bad enough when a client experiences a problem. It is a disaster when the problem occurs and he or she has no one to talk to about it. Report frequently to the customer what you have done or are doing to help with the problem. They want to know how their money is being spent, and they want to assess the value you are providing. Frequent communication is equated with great service.

    2.) For the inattentive clients who say one thing but claim to have meant something entirely different: Play back their words to them by repeating what they said in your own words. Ask them "Did I understand you correctly?" This will prompt the client to confirm what he or she just said. This will ensure that you understood the clientís wishes and make a later denial less likely.

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    3.) Youíve already sold the product or provided the service and now the customer claims it is not what they thought it would be: Psychologically speaking, when we ask for customerís ideas about the best course of action, we usually cause them to become more lenient and forgiving. We cause them to soften from the often firm positions they feel forced to defend. It makes it all right for them to compromise. The question "What do you feel is the best solution?" often causes disgruntled people to become much more pliable and easy to work with.

    4.) The customerís attitude toward the transaction is really getting to you: Know your aim. Focusing on the finish line--- the work you wish to accomplish, the experience you want to acquire, etc.--- will help to decrease the extent to which your clientís behavior will aggravate you. Remember that itís not you. If you find yourself dealing with someone who tends to be agitated, impatient, or demanding all the time, stay upbeat about yourself. Chances are that his or her unpleasant behavior is being triggered by something unrelated to you. This doesnít have to ruin your day. Keep in mind that although being upset with other peopleís behavior is understandable, every reaction you have is your choice. Work with difficult people or avoid them as you see fit, but along the way, practice choosing to be content.

    5.) You know you are right, but are tempted to give away the product or service to avoid strife: Aside from state and federal regulations, you choose the way you conduct your business. However, you are entitled to get paid for your goods and services and make a profit. If you know you are right, you should get paid and not give any discounts. Being mistreated will upset you, but being mistreated and underpaid will really tee you off and is simply unfair. You have to know when to just walk before the process even gets to the invoice stage. At some point, it is no longer worth playing the game. If the dissonance between you and a client is so great that it interferes with you achieving your aim, consider terminating the agreement.

    We all have to deal with problem customers from time to time. It should not kill your business though. Simple common courtesy usually works to smooth over turbulent times. The structure of well-mannered conversation will help keep both you and your customer from straying into unpleasant territory. For almost any problem, you can discuss possible solutions by practicing these action guidelines:

    Suggest options
    Ask for customerís ideas
    Agree on the best cause of action
    When you methodically apply these steps you will usually get very positive results.

    Finally, laugh when you can. Have a sense of humor about your work, and look for ways to share it with people who test your patience. Helping them to realize that you are going to survive this collaboration may lay groundwork for better rapport. We all take our business serious, as we should. It provides for our families and the families of our employees and in some case, future generations. However, if we can take a moment to look at the overall picture and observe that the battle between you and the disgruntled client will not even matter in five years, and in some cases before the day is over, we can relax. Have an ice tea or cold lemonade and focus on your next big deal. It will come, you know! For now, laugh at yourself (and at the customer behind his or her back!)

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