Saturday, July 2, 2011

How Many Customers Can You Afford to Anger?

I've been following a handful of private conversations in my industries about how to treat customers who really aren't our customers.

You know these people.

Bleeding You Blind
They find every loophole to get the most out of every transaction with you. They rarely shop at your store unless there is a discount or special going on. They always want more, trying to squeeze every penny out of your turnip. Rarely do you even know their names because they never come in until they need a donation or want to complain. They always want to use a coupon after it has expired, get a discount because the corner of the box is crushed, or complain about how they are a regular shopper at your store (even though no one on the staff has ever seen them) and should get a better deal.

These customers cost you money. They bleed your profit margins, take up your staff's time, and keep you away from more profitable customers. They frustrate and anger you and bring down the entire store's morale.

Best Buy took the approach years ago to fire these customers, send them to Circuit City.

What do you do?

Better yet, what should you do? Can you really afford to anger somebody in this economy? Are you big enough to take a PR hit because you wouldn't put up with an unreasonable customer?

What I Do
I'm not Best Buy. I don't believe I have the capital to purposefully anger any customers - even the customers I don't like. Oh, I've done it a couple times. We all have. But more often than not I look at it this way... I get to choose whether I am nice to someone or not. And it doesn't matter whether they are nice to me.

  • If I let someone use a coupon after it has expired, I am showing generosity.

  • If I give an extra discount because an item is crushed or the customer makes a fuss, I am being compassionate.

  • If I allow a customer to return an unopened item 10 months later, I am being helpful.

  • If I apologize to a customer for our failings even when she made the mistake, I am being understanding.
Generous, Compassionate, Helpful, Understanding. Yeah, I'd like to own those words in my customers' eyes. Wouldn't you?

The essence of Branding is simply...

Every single interaction a customer has with your business plus how they feel about it.

You cannot always control the interactions, but you can control the feelings by how you treat others. And don't ever believe that your best customers are not watching. Fair or not, they will measure you not at your best, but at your worst.

So make your worst pretty darn good by treating even your worst customers pretty darn good. You might just turn one of them into your best customer.

-Phil Wrzesinski
http://www.philsforum.com/

PS Even if you do have to fire a customer, do it with kindness and respect. At the end of the day the one thing you always have left is your character.

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