As small business owners, we love our clients. After all, they’re what keep us in business! It’s deeply important to us that our customers are happy, but it’s also equally important that we don’t allow them to push us around.
Let me be clear: most customers are wonderful people, and we’ve made some great friendships along our journey. And of course, we are always happy to fix mistakes and improve our services. But, as most of us know, not every person is easy – or possible – to please.
In the beginning, we had a really tough time dealing with difficult customers and outlandish requests. We’d freak out and panic because we want to do a great job and ensure all of our customers are happy. Now that we have some time and experience under our belts, however, we don’t break a sweat when we come across a tough client, because we’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way.
You Can’t Please Everyone
You could create the most delicious/original/unique/beautiful service or product, and someone out there will not like it. In fact, someone out there will hate it.
People come with their own tastes, expectations, needs, wants, and issues, and you cannot possibly meet all of them. And even if you did, someone out there will still not like it – still – because they are having a bad day.
It’s (Usually) Not About You
When a customer overreacts to a small issue – like cilantro as a garnish, or a wrinkled pillowcase – it is usually not really about the issue. It’s about something else.
When people overreact, the problem at hand is likely the latest cherry on top of a bad day, week, month, year, or even life. It’s not the core of the problem, it’s just the latest straw.
So, don’t take it personally. It’s not about you, your product/service, or your business. All you can do is do your best and handle the situation as best you can. Which brings us to our next point:
Do Not Escalate. Ever.
Since the issue is usually not really about the actual issue – or you, or your business – there is no sense in participating in whatever madness is going on. Do not escalate, ever.
We’ve come across a handful of people that pop up now and again. They are analytical, critical, and angry, and they are – get this – looking for an argument. They are actively searching for the opportunity to yell at someone, and we do our best to ensure it’s not us.
These types of customers are easy to spot, because they blow up over a small problem (or an imaginary one) and are often disarmed when we stay calm, logical, and helpful. We’ve come up with a magical power-sentence to disarm anyone that comes in too hot:
“I understand that you would like [their complaint/request], but unfortunately we cannot [logical reason why not], and [reiterate that that their demand will not be met]. We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your understanding.”
That is our de-escalation secret sauce, and it hasn’t failed us yet.
Offer a Baby-Compromise
In the harsh world of internet reviews, sometimes you have to give in a little – even if it’s unjustified and unfair. Keep in mind that you have to do the best for your business, and it’s pivotal to put your pride aside when you need to.
We like to offer baby-compromises. They’re often easier and more cost-effective than spending hours on the phone or stressing about the impending bad review. A baby-compromise is just that – a very, very small compromise, in which you give the disgruntled customer just enough for them to move on.
This could be refunding one night of someone’s stay, or comping one small item off of someone’s check. And no, they usually don’t deserve it – but you also don’t deserve to run yourself into the ground trying to reason with someone who is unreasonable.
Remember: all you can do is do your best, and that may occasionally mean giving in. More importantly, saying No gives you the time, space and energy to better serve your customer base. Saying No can free up the time you need to launch a new product, polish up your service, or dust off some marketing materials to grow – baby compromises & all.