Every SMB (small-to-medium business) is strapped – maybe it’s a bootstrap or belt strap. Regardless; we’re tied to our business.
We earn more clients and business to bring in more revenue.
We align with the best people who can make the business grow.
We manage operations to ensure efficiency and economy of scale.
How do you feed your business? Better yet, how are you fueled to ensure your business is fed?
Here’s your sweetener (what do you think of that monarch butterfly I shot last week on my butterfly bush?):
Be sure to shut off every day to spend time with family.
Pick up the phone and call an old friend to check in.
Exercise as frequently as possible because it truly does free your mind and spirit.
Meditate, or if you can’t like me, then at least sit in a tranquil spot to breathe deeply.
Read silly, trashy nonsensical words late at night to free your brain from work-related matters.
Treat yourself each season to a new hand bag or belt to refresh your image. How about getting a trim or a curl? I always feel smart after a hair cut.
Sit on a webinar and realize you already know what they’re talking about, so something is working.
Agree to guest post on a blog where you’re well received.
Engage in social media; the ‘raderie is contagious and the benefits for your brand are necessary.
Be you and laugh a lot to release stress and tension.
What’s your secret to fueling your energy?
Is there customer always right?
That said, so much of managing a business is tied up with the customer.
Seinfeld fans will remember the episode with Elaine needing to see a doctor for a rash and unable to find a single physician in the city who’ll treat her. Somewhere in her medical records is a notation warning, “Lousy customer. Get rid of her.”
Each doctor immediately escorts her out the door without so much as a smile and a handshake, and out she goes to try to find someone, somewhere, who’ll give her what she needs.
Aaah. If only, right? Not in the business world. You’ve heard it a million times, and so have your customers (potential included): “The customer is always right.”
If you’ve been in business long enough, you’ve even had a couple of customers who have pushed that philosophy to the breaking point, expecting you to meet their unreasonable demands and bend over backwards to give them a level of service that would put you out of business if you did the same for everyone.
You’ve experienced that chest-tightening, heart-pounding, shallow-breathing physical reaction that had you wondering if owning your own business was really worth the cost of shaving 20 years off your life.
News Flash: Your customer is not always right.
But how do you cut a customer loose without leaving him feeling disrespected? How do you maintain your good reputation in the marketplace, a reputation you’ve earned by making every other customer happy?
In this social media culture we now find ourselves in, a negative report from a customer can be plastered all over the Internet, leaving potential customers wary of doing business with you.
So what’s a business owner to do with an Elaine? How do you leave a customer feeling good about you, when they’d rather complain?
You do everything in your power to leave that customer feeling like he IS right, and you let him save face — and then you escort him out the door with a smile and a handshake.
In the South, it’s called “southern diplomacy,” usually practiced by beautiful southern women who can smile sweetly, deliver a criticism in a gentle and understanding voice, and end it with “Bless your heart.”
I’ve heard it said another way: “Kill them with kindness.” A proverb by one of the wisest kings to ever live, King Solomon, says it like so, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”
Whether or not you believe “the Lord” will reward you, it’s been demonstrated time and again that an enemy (or unhappy customer) who feels respected and cared for as you part ways diplomatically is much less likely to feel the need for revenge.
The most powerful words in customer service are, “I’m sorry. What can I do to maintain our relationship with you?” and then you listen to the customer’s request. If it’s so over the top you can’t possibly meet it, say so — but then negotiate with him until you find a solution that works for both of you.
Keep the customer believing that you want to work this out, that you want to leave him satisfied, because you do. Your reputation is at stake.
Deliver the solution in a timely matter, with quality. Then, part ways diplomatically.
Apologize again, saying, “I’m sorry we’re not able to be all that you need us to be, but I’ve learned a lot from this that’ll make me a better business owner, so thank-you for working with me.”
Leave the customer with the sense that your interaction with him has been good for you, and then make it so by learning from it — even if what you learned was a new red flag to keep an eye out for in the future.
Smile sweetly, even if it’s over the phone. (And refrain from saying, “Bless your heart.” Only beautiful southern women have the power to pull that one off.)
How have you handled difficult-to-please customers? What would you add to this advice? Have you ever had a customer who was set on destroying your reputation no matter how hard you tried to part ways diplomatically?