“Customonsters” and Other
been over twenty years since Madonna first sang about being a
“material girl in a material world,” and since that time, women and
men throughout the nation have become more demanding of businesses
and what they expect in terms of service. One might argue that this
age of the high-maintenance customer is simply due to businesses’
inability to get qualified help, and in some cases this is true.
However, the facts are that product and service customization,
competition, and “the customer is always right” have helped create
more than a few high-maintenance “customonsters” that over time, may
be more work than they are worth to your business.
demanding customers and give your employees the tools they need to
successfully manage that audience, there are several actions you
should take when planning your service strategy and tactics.
what you will and won’t do to satisfy customers. If you will
take back tires even though you are an exclusive clothing store,
fine. If you will only do it for your “platinum” customers,
that’s fine also. The point is, you must have rules in place.
Otherwise, you are headed for a path of inconsistency and
dissatisfaction. To kick off your planning, answer the
there some customers we would rather not have? If so, who
much abuse do I expect to take or expect my employees to
take from difficult customers? Am I willing to be yelled
at? Called stupid, incompetent, etc.?
special accommodations will I make to satisfy the demanding
when they are justified in complaining and when they aren’t?
2. Train your
employees on the rules you have put in place.
Be prepared to
visit and revisit this step several times. Turnover and other
circumstances will affect your need for training. Furthermore,
effectively dealing with “customonsters” is not always an
intuitive process. One training session is usually not enough.
Practice, practice, and more practice makes for better service.
Your training should include most if not all of the following
your employees to explain your processes to your customers
to align their expectations with what you can realistically
deliver. “Mrs. Smith, I understand that you want to
transfer your money from this CD to another investment
vehicle today. However, the new investment vehicle will not
be available for another week, and on top of that, you may
lose money by doing this transfer. When this new investment
vehicle is available, we will call you immediately and let
you know. In the interim, here is another plan that might
be better suited for your needs.” Remember to remind
employees to stay calm and not to yell, no matter how angry
the other person gets.
the focus on the problem, not the person. If the customer
is unhappy that you don’t have a service or product
available today, keep the conversation about what services
or products are available, what you can substitute and any
discounts you may have.
your employees not let the customer make this personal by
answering rhetorical questions such as, “Do you have any
idea how this is going to make me look, if I don’t get this
product today?” If your employees take the bait, there’s no
winning. “Miss Jackson, I’m sure it’s not a big deal if you
don’t get this product today.” Don’t make presumptions about
what the customer will be happy with. This is a losing
situation for sure.
A better statement might be, “Miss Jackson, although it’s
not perfect, I do have a similar product that is available
today, that you might want to try.”
employees a Plan B. If the customer is not happy with an
employee’s efforts, have someone else, such as a manager or
supervisor, who the employee can direct the customer
toward. If you don’t do this and employees don’t know what
to do, all bets are off as to what you might get. Do
yourself a favor and don’t leave Plan B up to chance.
Recognize and reward employees who handle difficult and
demanding customers well. It’s impossible to expect employees to
make the right decision one hundred percent of the time. However,
if they know you are watching and that you treat every mistake as a
learning opportunity, you are more likely to get the best out of
4. Never embarrass your employees in front of customers, never
yell at them in front of customers, and don’t immediately assume
that the customer is giving you the full picture. “Customonsters”
feed on negativity. The last thing you want to do is reinforce bad
behavior by communicating through your actions that abuse is okay –
even if you have decided that you will take a fair amount from the
5. If all else fails, you may consider freeing your
“customonsters” by suggesting other businesses that they might find
more suitable. But remember, most of the time you should be able to
satisfy your customers – even the material boys and girls, if you
have solid processes in place, act professionally, and follow up on
any promises you make.
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