Last week a Flathead Beacon reader sent me a nice note about a column that he liked, and while doing so, posed a question.
He said “One thing I am dying to read from you, is how do you get rid of a pain in the butt client — or a pathological recreational shopper — or the perfectionist from hell — without him or her poisoning your other customers?”
He’s not in for what he probably expected.
In my experience, few clients really, truly need to be fired (aka “gotten rid of”).
Why not just fire them?
- If they really, truly are worth firing, it’s often easier to get them to fire themselves without any negative consequences for you. Raise the bar on what it takes to become/remain a customer. The benefits of doing this are substantial.
- If they aren’t worth firing but are simply a thorn in your side, it’s the person in the mirror (you and your business) that needs to make changes. Once the thorny customer is satisfied, they usually become one of your biggest fans. I’ve seen it time and time again.
- How hard is it to get a new customer? What does it cost in time, effort and money?
As I said, if they really need to go, I prefer to work things out so that they fire themselves. But that isn’t the question he asked, so let’s address it.
Back to the question
Let’s do the easy one first – The “pathological recreational customer”.
Some things to consider:
- Are they coming into your store just to get warm? Obvious…maybe, but be careful. More on that soon.
- Are they shopping for someone else?
- Are they a mystery shopper?
- Are they investigating but not personally planning to buy? The smart ones aren’t going to tip their hand until price comes up and the business is ready to buy.
- Did they randomly walk into your store?
- Are they doing price comparisons on your store for a competitor? Note: anyone with a smart phone can do this. Get over it. In fact, get over price as the ONLY competitive edge. Part of your edge, fine. All of your edge? Not so fine.
- Is their recreational shopping a burden to your business?
Have you talked to them? “I notice that you like to browse through our store but you haven’t become a customer. Is there something you need that we don’t offer?” and take the conversation from there. Again, be careful. You gain nothing from embarrassing a (potential) customer, but there is plenty to lose.
The next easiest one is the “Pain in the Butt customer”.
Let’s consider the reason they’re a pain. It could be one or more of these:
- The customer is just one of those angry-at-the-world kinds of people.
- The customer is not being treated in a manner that meets or exceeds their expectations.
- The customer is not being treated well by anyone’s definition.
- The customer bought a product or service that doesn’t meet or exceed the expectations you set, which again could mean that you didn’t set any. Sometimes called “merchantability”, we ask the question “Is the product/service reasonably able to solve the problem or fill the need it was being sold for?”
- The customer has unreasonable expectations.
Note the operative word? Expectations. Do a better job of setting them.
The pain in the butt can most often be turned into your best reference by simply becoming their advocate.
Boy, it’s hot in here
The “perfectionist from hell” is the one you’ll be most tempted to get rid of. Problem is, they often fit into the “keester pain” category.
More often than not, they’re really an indicator that your product line or services are missing one or more tiers of service at the high end. Yep. It’s probably an opportunity. Isn’t that cool?
People like this often have high personal accountability standards and (right or not) hold others to those same standards. Your regular products and services at their regular prices aren’t a good fit for them and their appearance of perfectionism is a good indicator of that.
Add another level.
A higher quality product with a greater level of service attracts a customer who might be a perfectionist and is also willing to pay more for that level of quality.
It’s also a great way of defining expectations for the customer BEFORE they make the purchase and allowing them to choose how they’re served.
It’s Chevy Suburban vs. Cadillac Escalade. Both have a market.