We’ve all experienced difficult customers before. You know the type – they complain about your prices; drop by everyday to “see how things are coming along”; nitpick on your work before the job is even finished; and – even after you meet all of their requirements – still aren’t satisfied.
Fortunately, there are ways to handle difficult customers. Here are the five best:
1. Charge more
Time is money – and difficult customers often waste a lot of both. Which is why you should consider charging them an ‘aggravation surcharge’. Of course, you shouldn’t call it that or tell them that’s what you’re doing (it might make them even more difficult).
But let’s be honest, some customers’ business isn’t worth the headache it entails. For the really difficult, I’d rather charge more and put up with the fuss, than charge my usual rate and feel like I’m getting the shaft.
Still, keep in mind that a higher price could drive difficult customers away. Depending on how well your auto trim shop is doing, that may or may not be okay.
2. Decline the job
Sometimes it’s in your best interest to not take a job – especially if the customer is too cheap to pay a fair price, is unusually picky or just an all-around pain in the butt.
In such cases, no matter how great of a job you do, the customer will still complain – which is a problem considering that most auto trim shops rely on word-of-mouth marketing for business.
To decline a job, just say that you’re schedule is booked. If you’re feeling exceptionally feisty (and cold hearted), pass the customer onto a competitor.
3. Be specific
When dealing with a difficult customer, it’s important to be as specific as possible.
Ask lots of questions until you’re certain of what the customer wants. If something can’t be done, explain why and offer alternatives. If you think that you may run into a problem with the job, make the customer aware before you even start.
Once you have a good idea of what the customer wants, jot it down on the bill-of-sale and have him sign it. That way, he can’t come back to you once the job is complete and claim it isn’t what he asked for.
4. Set boundaries
The best way to prevent difficult customers from overstepping their boundaries is to set them. What this means is not letting the mantra of “the customer is always right” turn you into a pushover.
If your prices aren’t negotiable, say so – and explain why you set them the way you do. Or, if you don’t like difficult customers barging onto your shop floor everyday to “see how things are coming along”, tell them that the shop floor is for employees only (blame it on “insurance reasons” and they won’t argue).
The point is, difficult customers can’t aggravate you unless you allow them to. Be polite, yet firm, and set your boundaries.
5. Keep your cool
Inevitably, you’ll get a customer who’ll drive you so nuts that you’ll want to tell him off and kick him out. Don’t.
The worst thing you can do in front of a customer is lose your cool. Angry or dissatisfied customers are notorious for telling everyone they meet about how bad of an experience they had at your shop. Obviously, that isn’t good for your business’ reputation or your livelihood.
In cases like this, the best thing to do is swallow your pride and send the customer off happy. The next time he returns for a job, just tell him your schedule is booked.
We want to hear from you: If you have any tips on how to deal with difficult customers, please share them in the comments section below.