Florida Keys Business
Sunday, March 10, 2013
Dealing with demanding people: Part I:How to handle 3 types of customers

There are times we feel that we are giving every ounce of energy we have, and it still isn't enough for some people. We bend over backwards, stay late, make concessions and go above and beyond only to see a snarling customer standing in front of us, demanding that we do more.

It's hard to want to help customers like this. It feels like a bottomless pit, and no matter what we do, we come up short. These, however, are the people that make us better at what we do, and perhaps even better human beings.

When you get that demanding guest who simply can't be pleased remind yourself of QTIP. (Quit Taking it Personally). When people act out it is almost never because of the person on the receiving end. The ones doing it are the problem and would probably behave that way with anyone. Their own miserable behavior is their punishment.

Demanding customers come in all shapes and sizes, but you will find a few common themes. Expecting them and having a plan in mind makes it much easier.

First, there are the Bulldozers. These are the customers who come into your place of business and pound their chests, acting important and making threats before you have even heard the problem. They try to intimidate in order to get what they want. When dealing with these bulldozers, it is critical that you don't show fear (which is what they are hoping for), but at the same time, you don't respond in kind. Remember two things: Be assertive and give them options. They want to feel powerful, and one of the best ways to do that is to offer choices. For example, if they demand a refund and threaten to write about you on Trip Advisor, you can say something like "That would be very unfortunate sir, as we are here to make our guests happy. I may not be able to give you a full refund, but let's talk about some other options I can give you to make sure we turn this around..."

With Bulldozers, it's useful to get them in private. They like to make a scene, and get attention from others. Once they are off stage, they tend to calm down.

Second are the Woodpeckers. They knock on your door continuously with questions, problems, and needs. You start to wonder if they are worth the money they are spending in your place of business given the time and energy they require you to spend on them. High-maintenance people crave and need attention. Instead of seeing this as a nuisance, consider in an opportunity to build a relationship with your customer. These are the people who can really get to know you (and share that information with their Facebook friends). One of the best things you can do with a woodpecker is to go out of your way to give him attention when he isn't asking for something. Make that call just to see how he feels about your product or service; give him a little extra perk without him having to ask; see if he has questions even before he has a chance to come to you. In other words, feed the need. You will find that once his need is met, he will become your greatest fan.

The last, and perhaps, hardest type of demanding customer are the Manipulators. These are the customers who aren't clear with you about what they want. Instead, they beat around the bush, hint at what they want, and are just plain sneaky. It is hard to address these guests directly because they don't operate that way. People manipulate because they don't believe they can get what they want by asking directly. Ask yourself what they are really trying to get from you, and decide whether or not you can give it them. Are they insinuating that they want a free meal, a discount, a lower rate? If it's possible, do it. Don't withhold just because they are manipulating. You have to ask yourself if you want to be right or happy. If you can't give them what you think they want, put the ball in their court by asking them what you could do instead. They will almost always have an answer.

In this day and age, the customer has more power than ever before. In some ways that is good (as we all are customers at times), yet it may feel unfair. The key is to remember that customers are our allies - they are the reason we have a job and stay in business. The fact they demand a certain type of service keeps us on our toes and makes us grow. The bottom line is that you want to work with them, not against them, and when you do, more often than not, they will soften.

Elisa Levy conducts seminars on conflict resolution and anger management. For more information, contact her at 305-296-5437 or visit http://www.elisalevy.com.

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