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How to Turn Difficult Customers Into Marketing Success Stories

March 7th, 2013 ::

Difficult customers make me want to pull my hair out.When you run your own small business, you will inevitably work with a difficult customer (believe me, I have!). Difficult customers come in all shapes and sizes, whether they are perpetually grumpy and hard to please or come to the table with unrealistic expectations – and expect you to figure everything out for them.

No matter how difficult or easy the customer, your goal is to do a great job, thus turning the project into one more marketing success story. Here are some ways that I have turned difficult customers and projects into marketing successes:

1 – Put a detailed plan together

Putting together a detailed plan before you start working with a customer is the best way to avoid any misunderstanding or conflict. In your plan, detail the goals of the project, your responsibilities, the customer’s responsibilities, how you will perform the work, how you will measure success, the timeline, and the cost.

Why this will lead to marketing success: When both you and your customer sign off on the plan, you should be on the same page and in full agreement. If this is a long-term project, revisit the plan at regular intervals to make sure everything in it is still correct and relevant.

2 – Never get defensive

When a customer criticizes you or your work or makes a bunch of changes to what you worked so hard on, don’t take it personally. Instead of getting defensive, take the high road and just listen to them.

Why this will lead to marketing success: Listening to your customer is advantageous for a few reasons: People like to know they’re being heard; you can repeat back to them what they said to ensure you understood correctly; and you have a chance to clarify expectations.

3 – Thank them

This may sound counterintuitive, but once you apologize, thank your customer for pointing out problems or mistakes. Use it as an opportunity to revisit the plan and make adjustments as needed.

Why this will lead to marketing success: You will show your customer you care, you want to fix the problem, and you value their input.

4 – Get them involved

I have found that most conflicts with customers are due to a lack of understanding and/or expertise on their part, simply because their expertise lies elsewhere. Put forth a plan on how to fix things, what you will do, what they can expect, and ask them for their ideas.

Why this will lead to marketing success: People hate to feel powerless. By giving your customer some power over how to proceed, they will feel more invested in the outcome.

5 – Put yourself in their shoes

When all else fails, just put yourself in their shoes. Maybe their business is struggling, their job is on the line, or their personal life is a mess. Try to be as empathetic as possible – even if you want to run away from them as fast as possible.

Why this will lead to marketing success: It could turn your attitude towards them around, making you more inclined to do the best job possible.

Do you have a bad customer horror story? How did you turn it around and come out on top?

Image courtesy of thewrestlingtalk.com

The views expressed here are the author's alone and not those of Network Solutions or its partners.

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Posted in Marketing | 19 Comments »

  • http://itdinteractive.com/inbound-marketing-blog/ Eric McCarty

    Good info, Monika. Put yourself in their shoes may be the most important in the list.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Eric – I can’t agree more!

  • Mary Schnibben

    Great article – reminds me of the Golden Rule; treat others as you’d want to be treated. Everyone wants to be validated; good advice for anyone who works wit the public, not just customers.

  • Mary Schnibben

    Great article – reminds me of the Golden Rule; treat others as you’d want to be treated. Everyone wants to be validated; good advice for anyone who works wit the public, not just customers.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, it is very Golden Rule, isn’t it? Thanks for your comment – glad you enjoyed the article!

  • http://www.wheelmedia.com/ Wheel Media

    Great ideas here. Drawing from a background in psychology, my approach to dealing with difficult people is to flatter them shamelessly. It’s challenging, but it gets people into a positive state of mind quickly. Smiles everyone, smiles!

  • http://www.wheelmedia.com/ Wheel Media

    Great ideas here. Drawing from a background in psychology, my approach to dealing with difficult people is to flatter them shamelessly. It’s challenging, but it gets people into a positive state of mind quickly. Smiles everyone, smiles!

    • Anonymous

      LOVE this suggestion! Pour sugar onto sour, et voila, you get sweet!

    • Anonymous

      LOVE this suggestion! Pour sugar onto sour, et voila, you get sweet!

  • http://www.wheelmedia.com/ Wheel Media

    Great ideas here. Drawing from a background in psychology, my approach to dealing with difficult people is to flatter them shamelessly. It’s challenging, but it gets people into a positive state of mind quickly. Smiles everyone, smiles!

  • http://www.wheelmedia.com/ Wheel Media

    Great ideas here. Drawing from a background in psychology, my approach to dealing with difficult people is to flatter them shamelessly. It’s challenging, but it gets people into a positive state of mind quickly. Smiles everyone, smiles!

  • Amy

    Monika, being in this business for over 27 years, I have dealt with a lot of difficult clients. In the past few years, I have decided to “fire” some clients~ sometimes their expectations are so over the top, it’s not worth the effort!

    • Anonymous

      I have fired clients too – incredibly liberating, isn’t it?!

    • Anonymous

      I have fired clients too – incredibly liberating, isn’t it?!

  • Anonymous

    This sounds all well and good on the surface,. but its very frustrating when a client goes out of their way to trash your business on line even though you’ve ultimately come through for them. Every business person knows, whether they publically admit to it or not, that the customer is not always right, .

    • Anonymous

      Oh my gosh, I know – it is beyond frustrating. However, if all of your other reviews are glowing, they’re the ones who look bad, not you. If you can counter their review in a public way, even better – you’ll publicly show you made an effort and took the high road. As long as you don’t come across as angry or defensive, you’re good.

    • Anonymous

      Oh my gosh, I know – it is beyond frustrating. However, if all of your other reviews are glowing, they’re the ones who look bad, not you. If you can counter their review in a public way, even better – you’ll publicly show you made an effort and took the high road. As long as you don’t come across as angry or defensive, you’re good.

      • Anonymous

        Yes. The tricky part is sticking up for yourself while not sounding defensive or offensive to the client. (even though you may want to tell him off)

        • Anonymous

          Yup, that is tricky. Always take the high road, though, as hard as it might be – and believe me, I like nothing more than to tell an idiot off!