5 Wise Tips to Avoid a Debt of Trouble with Bad Customers

Good Advice for Solo Business Professionals and Entrepreneurs

When dealing with customers, don't lose yourself. Customer service is important, but don't let it drive you to needing a personal loan to pay a doctor. (Photo: flickr.com)

When dealing with customers, don't lose yourself. Customer service is important, but don't let it drive you to needing a personal loan to pay a doctor. (Photo: flickr.com)

Long-time solo professional business owners have always experienced ups and downs with their business. They’ve all had debts to pay like most business owners do, and most have received a personal loan to help out. Aside from financial obstacles, they’ve also likely come across every type of customer you can think of, some who bring a liability called stress. You know the type; they threaten to sue over a $5 item they bought on sale because they claim that the product is broken. They’re the ones “calling the BBB to shut your business down” because, in some way, you breeched the privacy policy. There are also light-weight scammers who shamefully abuse money-back guarantees.

Be assured, you won’t have to deal with these types of customers on an everyday basis, but you will have a few Naomi Campbell-type customers, possibly throwing cell phones and such. In case you do run across brutally difficult customers, I have a few simple techniques for dealing with the occasional irate customer so you’ll stop thinking about charging them extra for “nut case” insurance.

Remain a Calm Solo Professional

Nine times out of 10, a customer will try to attack you on a personal level. If you are not careful, you could get into an argument. This could lead to everyone yelling and shouting. The situation doesn’t get resolved, and that makes everything worse. Try to stop the eruption of disaster by killing all anger with kindness. If the customer doesn’t calm down, simply ask them to leave and come back when they’ve cooled down and can communicate more reasonably. Calmly set boundaries and never let anyone cross them. It might not feel like the nicest thing to do, but you must refuse to speak to an outraged customer. Never forget that you are never obligated to put up with abuse.

The Customer is Always Right… Not Always

Customer service trainees are taught that the customer is always right, and that can be true in many situations, but not all. Sometimes, they are completely wrong. Accommodate customers within reason, but don’t simply give them what they want every time. Their demands can be very stressful on you and your business.

Don’t Blame Yourself

A customer could have been having a bad day and wanted someone to take their frustrations out on. In the event that this sort of situation occurs, listen to their ranting and yelling, then respond kindly. If you use this one technique, you are sure to dissipate any brewing customer service problem. Tell the customer you understand that they’re angry and that you’d like to work with them to resolve their issue once they’ve become calm.

Dealing with Customer’s Legal Threats

Sometimes in customer service, solo professionals will do anything to avoid the potential harm of a customer’s threat. Some lose money or risk giving in to irrational demands in the process. Take a moment to consider how logical the threat sounds. Do you really think someone is going to pay thousands in legal fees to sue you over a $50 product? I don’t think so; they’ll wind up in debt. Again, do what you can to assist the customer, but do so within reason of your set boundaries.

Know When to Let the Customer Go

You’ve heard that a happy customer will tell one person about your business, but an unhappy customer will tell five or more. Word of mouth spreads faster than a wildfire and could drastically boost or crush a business’ success. Word of mouth is the root of the phrase, “The customer is always right.” If you can salvage the relationship between you and the customer, do so. However, if their business is too outrageous, send them packing to the next solo professional. After all, it’s not worth the headache rolling over for a customer who has the words “debt of problems” practically written on their forehead, is it? If it means you need an extra personal loan now and again, that’s OK. What you gain in reduced stress level is priceless.

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