Trade Show TalesBlog

Shooting from the Hip — 13.10 (Making Customers Mad)

September 2nd, 2010 5 COMMENTS

Shooting from the Hip (trade show tips)

Shooting from the Hip by Reid Sherwood

6 Surefire Ways to Tick Off Your Customer

No matter how long I’m in business, I am always amazed at the lengths some companies go to make their customers mad. I “get” the fact that you have to make money. I “get” the fact that the customer “ISN’T” always right (like we’ve been taught over and over again). HOWEVER, the customer is ALWAYS IMPORTANT!

1. Downplay their Problem. They just spent money with you for a product or service. Now there is a problem. A surefire way to raise their ire and eliminate any future business is to take their problems lightly and make them feel insignificant.

2. That’s Impossible. Tell them that what just happened is impossible. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that calling a customer a liar may not be the best mediation tactic. You can say “We take great measures to insure against that.” You can tell them that “We have processes in place to catch that, but this one must have slipped by.” You can tell them that “Sometimes good old human error occurred, and you are really sorry.” But the second you tell them that their problem can’t happen or didn’t happen is the second you just picked a fight with a customer.

3. Accept It “As Is”. Have you ever tried to convince your customer to accept the product “as is” at a reduced cost? They didn’t purchase the product to be defective. They purchased it because they expect it to look like and perform like the picture in the advertisement or the marketing material.

I was in a McDonald’s a couple weeks ago. So as I am ordering, this guy comes back to the counter with a Big Mac. He unfolds it and says to the counter person very calmly, “I’d like to show this to the manager please.”  The manager strolls over very nonchalantly. The customer unwraps the burger and shows the manager the insides. There is sauce all over everything, the lettuce is wilted, and the condiments are both on the inside and the outside of the bun. There was even a chunk of bun missing the size of my thumb. Honestly – the presentation was just awful.

The customer says, “I ordered that!” and points to the picture on the menu of a nice looking Big Mac all perfect and nice. The manager in his infinite wisdom says, “How about I give you a small fry for free?” Instantly, the customer was enraged and replied, “I DIDN’T WANT FRIES. I WANTED MY BURGER TO LOOK LIKE THE PICTURE!” The manager took out a shovel and dug himself a little deeper and said, “We don’t have time to make them like that. You have to be happy with what you get.” The customer walked away and said, “I will never ever buy another thing from MacDonald’s as long as I live.” How would it have worked if he had simply made him a burger that looked decent and not been slopped together? Just fine, I suppose. But nope . . . He decided to pick a fight with the customer instead.

4. Blame a Problem on Somebody Else. Nothing will drive a consumer away faster than to have the blame passed on to someone else. Just take ownership of the issue and correct it. Don’t denigrate another employee who made a mistake.

5. Take Forever to Correct the Problem. This is like making mountains out of mole hills. If you allow a problem to linger, you leave a bad taste in your customer’s mouth that much longer. Every company has faults. None are perfect. I remember Jim Hoffmann of Optima Graphics saying in a meeting, “If something is wrong, apologize, fix it, and move on quickly to something positive.” It was a valuable lesson about problem resolution:  Fix it quickly and move on.

6.  Keep Making the Same Mistake. Customers can be very forgiving if you make a mistake and then resolve it quickly. They know that stuff happens. They are even willing to cut you a break when it happens again, assuming you have a solid relationship with them. But when it happens over and over . . . well, that’s when they recognize that despite your best intentions, your company has serious problems.

I recall asking a distributor about a display manufacturer about ten years ago. The distributor said, “They are great about correcting problems on orders. They react fast and send me a replacement or repair immediately.” I said, “They sound like a terrific company.” “Not really,” he replied. “EVERY ORDER has a problem. It’s beyond frustrating anymore. It’s a joke between me and the company and frankly, I’ve had enough “laughs” because my customers are always angry. I don’t see how they can continue to stay in business producing two displays for every one order.”

Guess what? The display company went out of business a few years later.

Please share your “Surefire Ways” to tick off a customer. Tips like dating your customer’s spouse or sending their email address to an Eastern European spammer don’t count. 😉 Those are way too easy.

Until the next time,

–Reid Sherwood

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5 Responses to “Shooting from the Hip — 13.10 (Making Customers Mad)”

  1. Belittle their existing supplier! If a prospective client comes to you needing assistance because their existing supplier has let them down, take the opportunity graciously and benefit from it. Never criticise their existing supplier as this effectively means you are questioning their judgement and will not go down well….

  2. mel says:

    Hedd —

    That’s a terrific addition to the list! It’s an easy trap to fall into when pushing our product or service to a less than enthusiastic customer.

    Well done!

  3. Helena says:

    Ignoring them! Not returning phone calls, emails, or responding to requests; saying you’ll get back to them and not etc etc.

    Not keeping promises of reliability, timing, satisfaction, follow-up.

    Both of the above destroy relationships, trust and the potential for loyalty and positive referrals.

  4. mel says:

    Another excellent addition to the list. Thanks Helena.

  5. Robert P says:

    Great insight. One big irritation is not replying to emails in a timely manner. I have the policy to replying to all emails within one hour. You’d be surprised how many people thank for for my prompt response – but it is only doing to others what I would want done to me.

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