You need customers, but you can do without these types of problem customers…

It doesn’t matter what kind of business you run; there is one thing that is always true. You need customers to buy from you.

Without them, your business is going to fail. And that’s fine; you understand that, so you don’t need us to tell you about the importance of good customer support and marketing, etc.

However, let’s be honest for a second. Sometimes, your customers can be your worst enemy. They can say and do things that can get your back up, and in some cases, threaten to derail your business. If you run a home business, you probably don’t need us to tell you that, either. You have probably dealt with your fair share of problem customers yourself.

With that in mind, here are some tips in dealing with three kinds of customer who can cause you problems.

Problem Customer 1: Ms. Cheeky

Once in a while, you will get somebody who is just out to take you for a ride.  This often happens in the early stages of business, when you are frantically looking for customers and offering all kinds of incentives, help, and support to attract and keep them.

So, you offer a substantial discount on this customer’s first order, and then they ask you for a similar discount on their second order too. You tell them your price for something, and they ask you for a discount – because it’s ‘mates rates’….. 

A customer pays for three hours of your time and then expects you to keep working beyond that with no extra payment.  Or you order and pay for a product from your network marketing company for one of your friends and then they say they don’t want it and can they have something else instead.

The secret to beating these types of people is to know your own boundaries and stick to them.  it can be daunting in the early stages – if you say no to people then maybe you won’t get any customers.  But sooner or later you have to stick to your guns and charge each person what you are worth and what you need to make a living. 

‘Mates Rates’ are OK if you know that your friend will do something for you in return, or if she will recommend you to lots of her friends,  but you can’t give mates rates to everyone that you have ever said hello to at the school gates, just because they know you in person rather than online.

Make sure that you have budgets and financial forecasts in place so that you can see what you can realistically offer as a discount and still break even.  And just be true to yourself and don’t sell yourself short.

Problem Customer 2: Ms. Angry

Why is Ms. Angry so angry? There could be many reasons, and sometimes it can be your fault. You may not have delivered her order on time. You may have kept her waiting on the phone for ages. And you may have said something to her that has fuelled her wrath further. On the other hand, she may just be having a bad day, and you are the one bearing the brunt of her fury despite having done nothing wrong yourself. What do you do about her?

Don’t put the phone down, at least not straightaway, and don’t get into a battle of words. If Ms. Angry is upset because of something you have done, you need to console her and set things right. Consider the HEARD Technique an acronym for Hear, Empathise, Apologise, Resolve, and Diagnose. Go through each in turn in an effort to get to the bottom of the problem and calm her down.

By handling her calmly and professionally, you stand a better chance of keeping her as a customer, and in turn, you should receive positive word of mouth from her, rather than the negative word of mouth that will come if you reflect her anger back to her. It’s all about having a professional approach to your business, dealing with conflict in a way that won’t ruin your reputation.

Still, if Ms Angry vents her fury at you for no real reason, and you can’t calm her down, then yes, put that phone down, as you don’t want him to waste any more of your time, and ruin the rest of your day.

Problem Customer 3: Ms Lawbreaker

Not everybody is as law-abiding as you. Some customers will try and swindle you. They might refuse to pay up after buying goods from you, ask for a refund and fail to send back the product they received from you, and they might use somebody else’s payment card to buy something from you.

Customer fraud can damage your business, as you will suffer losses as a result. You need to protect yourself, but how can you weed out the good customers from the bad?

This is a tricky one, especially if you never meet the customer face-to-face. When a transaction goes through, you are trusting that other person. However, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself. Financial Fraud Action UK has a lot of helpful guidance on their site, including ways to guard yourself when taking electronic payments. Your bank will also have policies in place, so speak to them regarding your business account.

You can reduce fraud by asking for ID, using verification tools to authenticate your customer is who she says she is. While the customer may try and deceive you with somebody else’s ID, you can catch fake IDs with identity verification services. And remember, if you are in any way unsure about the customer, whether something doesn’t feel right, or they have a previous record of bad behaviour with your business, you don’t have to sell to them. Tell Ms. Lawbreaker she can take her business elsewhere, and threaten her with police action if you suspect she is a fraudster.

Have you dealt with difficult customers? Have you been subject to people taking advantage, excessive anger, or fraud? Let us know how you managed the situation, letting us all benefit from your wisdom. 

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