How To Deal With Difficult Customers
As a tradesman you already know that an unhappy client isn’t the worst thing that can happen to your business. It’s how you deal with one that really counts, especially because tradesmen are often recommended via word of mouth through trusted recommendations.
Although it’s not always an easy feat, turning an unhappy customer into a happy one certainly helps to differentiate you from the competition.
It can also help improve your reputation, earning you the chance of repeat and even referral business in your community. Here are a few things to keep in mind when dealing with difficult customers.
Unhappy customers are bad for business, sure…
A happy customer is likely to tell a friend about a positive experience, but an unhappy one is likely to tell three times as many. Using social media and other platforms, it’s incredibly easy for empowered customers to make their dissatisfaction publicly known, lay complaints and generally persuade other potential customers to change their minds about approaching you for business.
…But look on the bright side
Every bump in the road is an opportunity to improve. Take every piece of negative feedback you receive and decide how to use it to change something for the better. Whether it’s the products you use, the way you work or the finished products you deliver – there’s always room to improve your craft.
Have you got a ‘customer service frame of mind’?
‘The customer is always right…always have a smile on your face.’ Customer service mantras like these are often repeated but not easy to remember in every situation – especially when you’ve put time and energy into a project or even had work signed off on by a customer.
A more productive sentiment to cultivate is a customer service frame of mind, in which making the customer happy is the number one goal. It’s also worth recognising that there are many different ways to do this, depending on the situation.
6 Steps to Taming the Unhappy Customer
Remember: mistakes happen – it’s how you deal with one that matters most.
Step One - Listen All any customer really wants is to be heard. When an angry client approaches you, be sure to stay neutral and listen to their whole story before offering a solution or jumping to any conclusions. The situation may be especially sensitive to them if you’ve been doing work at their home or office. Ask them to tell you the details and be sure to focus all of your attention on them. If a customer knows you’re actively listening to their grievance there can be a conversation on how to solve it.
Step Two – Understand Once a customer has explained why they’re upset, make sure you understand the problems and are able to repeat them. This helps to show the customer that you’re listening and have identified the problem that needs to be addressed, as well as next steps to begin finding a resolution.
Step Three – Empathise People like dealing with real people. There’s nothing worse than feeling like someone is repeating customer service mantras when they should be responding like a human. If you run a small trades business it’s imperative that the customer feels like they can have an open and honest conversation with you as a person instead of a businessman. By telling a customer that you understand why they’re upset, letting them know you would be upset too and can understand their reaction – you’re showing them that you empathise.
Step Four – Present a Solution There’s a few ways to resolve a problem. You can suggest a solution or ask your customer what they need to make them happy again. Tell them you’re happy to hear their idea and that you’ll make it happen if it’s in your power to do so. This can be tricky when it comes to trades work or construction so it’s worth having a few ideas on hand up front. If the customer’s requirement isn’t realistic, let them know you’ll find another solution together.
Step Five – Make it Happen Communication is key here. If you’ve told your client what steps you plan on taking to resolve their problem, make sure you take action immediately and keep them updated. A lag in communication at this point could make the situation ten times worse than it was to begin with. If someone else is doing the work, make sure you’re visible on site so your customer knows you are invested in sorting out this issue.
Step Six – Exceed Expectations After all is said and done, thank your customer for the experience and for giving you feedback that’s helped you to learn and reduce the risk of it ever happening again. If you’d really like to leave a lasting impression, offer them a discount on their next job, a discount for a referral or send a handwritten apology. You could possibly use their experience in a testimonial to show other prospective clients how you handled the problem and what the outcome was, as this will build faith in your abilities.
And finally, keep an eye on your reputation
These days you can monitor what people are saying about your business on social media and by using Google Alerts to monitor the web for any mentions of your brand or industry. It’s also a good idea to ask every customer that’s satisfied with your work to provide a testimonial for you to use.
The Dickies Workwear brand puts a great deal of focus on great customer service as well as transparency – anyone can read reviews about the brand at Trustpilot to find out how customers feel about the service.