We all want to please our customers…I personally bend over backwards to provide my customers with the best service possible. I fix problems quickly, have an easy return or exchange policy and spend a lot of time listening to my customers. For small business owners, each and every sale is important to our bottom line. It can be detrimental to our business if we have to issue refund after refund. I’m proud to say that the percentage of returns I get are only about 1%. A number I work really, really hard for.
Has the person made unreasonable requests or demands?
Occasionally customers come up with some odd requests. I guess they assume that “handmade” means “make it my way on my terms”. Of course it is up to us to explain that is not the case. On several occasions I’ve had customers ask me to make and deliver their custom high chair cover in under a week. Even after explaining that I have a wait list in which I’ve had other customers patiently waiting their turn, a few of them felt that their order was more important. After explaining to one customer that I did offer a rush service (for an additional charge) which would get her order shipped within a few days, told me that she would pay the additional fee ONLY if the item was delivered to her the following day. I’m sorry, but last time I checked, I was the owner of my business and made the “rules”! Of course I politely declined the sale, but it infuriated me to have a customer make such an unrealistic demand. I had no desire to make anything for this person!
Does the person have unrealistic expectations?
Let me start by saying as a business owner it is your job to set customer expectations. What will your product include, what will it not include? What’s the quality? Provide all relevant information to prevent issues going forward.
That being said, there are often times when you will run into a customer who has expectations that just can’t be met. For example, I once had a person contact me about making them a custom high chair cover. I knew immediately that this person would present a challenge because they had pointed out all the differences between my handmade covers and the manufacturer’s original cover. I politely explained that while my covers are similar to the manufacturer’s covers, they are not exact duplicates. I can not supply the snaps, clips and other hardware pieces that come with original covers and therefore make alterations to help adjust for that. The customer ended up ordering and (surprise, surprise) after receiving the cover, emailed me a series of photographs showing how my cover was different from the original. I quickly issued a postage paid return label for her to return the cover along with a full refund and provided her the contact information for the chair manufacturer so she could purchase a replacement cover that would meet her satisfaction. To me, this customer was never going to be satisfied with anything I made. It was worth taking the sale loss to send her on her way.
Did the person request something out of your scope of business?
You can’t be everything for everyone, right? RIGHT. Just because I make covers for high chairs does not mean I make covers for car seats or baby swings. I’ve had many customer requests for these items over the years but I kindly decline the business often times pointing them in the direction of a handmade seller that specializes in the product they are looking for. Why do I do this when I could probably make these items? Well, for one, since it is not my regular product it would take me twice as long to produce which would cut into my profit margin (or eliminate it completely). Secondly, if it is a product I haven’t made many times before, chances are I will not get it perfect increasing the chances of a return – once again hurting my profit margin. But most importantly, since I am not an “expert” in that product and haven’t researched it thoroughly, I may overlook some law or regulation that exists in the manufacturing of that product! The few dollars I may make off of something like this is just not worth it in the long run. Bottom line: Stay true to your business! Don’t try to be something you are not.
Is the person rude or offensive?
Any customer that is rude or offensive is not worth a sale. No person should have to deal with someone else’s emotional baggage. Let them be rude somewhere else. Recently I was selling a purse at a craft fair for $20.00. I had a woman tell me that she didn’t think a purse I was selling was worth the $20.00 I was asking. She went on to tell me that if I wanted to sell her the item I needed to lower the price to $12 (I would not be making a profit at that price). My simple reply, “I’m sorry I can’t do that. The price of the purse is $20.” She made a horrific face at my reply along with a few audible sounds of aggravation, but in the end bought the purse! She just wanted a “deal”. Honestly I would have been perfectly content if she walked away.
Aside from your sanity, there is a real cost of doing business with a “bad” customer.
- Time: Customers that require too much work and effort take up your time. Time you could be spending making more product to sell!
- Money: Difficult to please customers will most likely return your product because it doesn’t meet their unrealistic expectations. Profits will be lost!
- Reputation: Challenging customers like to inform everyone they know about their “horrible” experiences. You will not be spared. By sending them off before they have any experience at all you will save yourself the headaches of dealing with the backlash of an unhappy customer.
Be POLITE! As much as you would like to give a snarky response, don’t do it. Your business’s reputation always comes before your feelings.
Always RESPECT the customer. Treat others as you would expect to be treated. It may be difficult but you need to remember that everyone deserves respect!
EXPLAIN the reasons why you cannot meet the customer’s requests or expectations. This is just good business.
PROVIDE Alternatives. If you are going to deny your service or product, be sure to let the person know where they can find something similar that may meet their needs.
And there you have it. Hopefully you won’t have to send too many customers away (if you do, you may want to re-evaluate your business practices), but there are times when it is in the interest of all involved to do so.