Tell me if this circumstance sounds familiar.
You’re dealing with a customer. They don’t completely understand the situation they’re in. They think they do, but they have some misconceptions.
There are times when they are being difficult. They’re mad, and they’re not listening.
To be honest, they’re out of line and you know they are, and there’s a lot of times where you just want to tell them off.
But don’t do it.
Just like with your significant other, sometimes you want to say “I told you so”, but it doesn’t help the situation. In fact, you just threw gasoline on the fire.
It’s better to turn around, bite your tongue, and take the high road (that way you also avoid sleeping on the couch).
The same rings true in business.
It’s important in these situations not to say anything that will come back to haunt you.
That doesn’t mean you can’t warn them, nor should you be anyone’s doormat, but don’t retaliate.
We’ve seen it before, and we know they’re making a bad decision
Let’s use a scenario that you may be familiar with, and one I’m unfortunately all too familiar with.
The payment processing business is notoriously full of salespeople that call and tell you that they can save you hundreds of dollars per month.
Coming from a guy who’s built his business through payment processing, there’s a funny thing about this type of statement: often times, there isn’t even enough profit margin for the savings they are quoting.
Usually, salespeople from nefarious credit card companies are quoting far below the credit card brands costs; meaning it’s an inaccurate quote. Whether it is their intent to lie, or they are just uneducated on costs, either way it’s not a good situation.
These sales guys get merchants to sign up for a 4-5 year commitment (aka a lease) paying $40-$60/month for a credit card terminal that cost $200-$400 brand new.
A few months later, the customer then realizes they are not getting the savings they were promised. In fact, they are often paying more than they were originally promised and they have a non-cancelable lease that will cost them thousands of dollars to get out of.
It sounds crazy, but it happens every day.
If you handled this customer leaving you with grace, and left the door open, they will often time come back to be a better customer than before. It’s all in how you handle it. With this new found trust and credibility, you can now build a relationship that could be good for many years to come.
Don’t kick them to the curb
If there’s one thing that can stop someone from saving money and making a good decision, it’s pride. Do not hurt someone’s pride, because it’s personal.
Chances are, you have business relationships or clients that will eventually make bad choices, knowing they’re wrong.
When this happens, don’t ditch them.
Help them. Welcome them back, like the prodigal son.
But you can’t do this, if you’ve already flushed the relationship down the drain.
A funny thing happens when you insult someone’s ego: they won’t come back to you or listen to you, because their pride won’t let them.
The thing that I stress to our team members is, “Never burn a bridge”. Even when people have said things that weren’t true about us, don’t do it, as tempting as it may be. We always do what we can to make a bad situation right.
The Golden Rule is as true today, “Treat others the way you would want to be treated.” I never want to give someone a legitimate reason to feel they were mistreated, and I always strive to follow the Golden Rule.
Someone may not ‘like’ you for any reason they want. You can’t control whether someone ‘likes’ you or not. But you can control how you treat them. For example, you may have an annoying laugh, or blonde hair, or perhaps you were born in Canada (as I was), but you can’t control these things, and you shouldn’t worry about them either. It’s out of your hands at that point.
Just make sure you don’t give someone a reason not to like you, by mistreating them. Always leave the door open to future conversations and give them a chance to come back.
Some of our best customers and relationships are people that came to us and then left. They thought the grass was greener on the other side. They got promised a bill of goods, and left, but came back to us because we didn’t slam the door in their face.
They never would have come back if we had thrown gasoline on the fire
Now if we would have told that business relationship, affiliate customer, or client “You’re crazy, you’re stupid, they lied to you”, they wouldn’t have come back to engage us. We certainly wouldn’t have any relationship. Instead, we said “Do what you think is best, but if you want to come back, we’d love to help you out. We wish you the best.”
Customers, clients, and relationships that ultimately came back to us because we chose not to torch that overpass, are people that will never leave us. Those relationships (dare I call them friendships) are some of the deepest and most relationally profitable connections we have. They’re our best case studies, best testimonials, and best cheerleaders of our cause.
I know how tempting it can be to say “I told you so,” or, “You’re being too naive to fall for that lie.” Instead, hold your tongue, and handle it with maturity and grace.
It’s hard to watch a customer go to a competitor, especially when you know they’re getting a bad deal, but you ultimately know people are going to make their own decisions.
Often times, your relationships and customers don’t realize the value that you bring because they have nothing to compare to, until they choose to leave, then come back to you.
A Personal Story
Here’s a story about handling a difficult situation. It’s kind of a personal one for me.
There was a rather large company that we began talking to at one point, about being their main payments processor. Their choice was between us and another processor. The company’s CEO wanted to work with us, but the CFO wanted the other company. It was kind of a dramatic and tense situation, if you can relate.
The CFO was being extremely critical and unfair with us, as a part of their decision making process (the CFO wanted to choose the other company). During this time I had to talk to all the parties involved, and I knew the CFO was being negative about us.
I had two choices, fireback and say the CFO didn’t know what they were talking about, or I could stay polite and just keep answering questions.
Fortunately, I kept my cool and stayed friendly with all the parties involved. Eventually, the company chose us, and the CFO and their spouse actually left the company.
Here’s the crazy part of the story: remember the difficult CFO? The one who we struggled to convince? Well, their spouse went onto a prominent role in another company, and recommended us when that company was looking for a processing relationship.
I could have been frosty and told someone off, but then we wouldn’t have saved a great relationship or been in a relationship with another company. Each relationship has produced hundred of thousands in revenue to our company. Trust me, that fact makes you feel way better than spouting off in the heat of an argument.
There’s going to be times, when you’re raked over the coals
With social media, and sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, your business will undoubtedly face some criticism that is published online. Handling those situations can turn potential customers towards you or away from you.
If you get dramatic in an online forum, and start Facebook wars and Twitter conflicts, you are going to damage relationships that will be impossible to repair.
Stuff like that is going to happen throughout your life, whether you’re an entrepreneur or not. How you handle those tense situations will greatly influence if you’ll be successful as a business owner.
Permanently damaging an ally is never going to turn out in your favor, and it can damage you more than the other person. Word can circulate quickly of what happened with one company, and if you lose credibility because you blew a situation with handling a client by calling names and closing doors.
The world is a small place, you never know who is friends with who, who is related. Most of our largest clients came from referrals. In fact some of those most difficult customers became our biggest cheerleaders.
Maybe because they are not used to having a vendor treat them with respect when they are being difficult. Trust me, deep down they know they are difficult. Hold your head high and treat everyone with respect and you’ll attract others that will do the same to you.
And when you do get raked over the coals, unfairly, handle it with grace and maturity.
Suggest a topic for me
Can you relate to any of the above? Or maybe you have your own topics you’d like me to possibly touch on?
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I always love hearing feedback and thoughts from fellow entrepreneurs, business leaders and friends.