No matter how long you’ve been in business you’ve no doubt heard sayings such as, “The customer is always right.” And perhaps you have bent over backwards to keep some customers happy, no matter what.
But can you go too far? Absolutely!
Providing excellent customer service is extremely important for a successful business, there’s no doubt about that, and it can often be something that sets you apart from your competitors. But at some point you’ve probably had a particular customer or client whom you wish would shop elsewhere. You know the ones … no matter what you do they will find something to complain about. Or they love your work (or product or service) and praise you openly, but then pressure you to give them extra or to do the work faster to meet their urgent deadline and may become quite unreasonable when you explain why you can’t accommodate their requests.
So many small business owners are keen to keep all customers and prospective customers happy that they sometimes forget to set their own boundaries and policies. While keeping your customers happy, it should not be to the detriment of other customers or yourself, your family or staff members.
I recall a few years ago when myself and a colleague made a similar request to a third party. We both had our requests denied on what seemed to be reasonable grounds. However my colleague jumped up and down and would abuse them and call them all sorts of names on the phone until eventually the third party gave in and gave them what they asked for. When I explained my disappointment and asked why they gave in to my colleague but denied me the same request the reply I received was, “I’m very sorry. I don’t think it’s fair at all but sadly, sometimes you have to give the best oil to the squeakiest wheel to keep them quiet.”
Needless to say I was very upset by this situation and although it was 16 years ago, it’s stayed with me all these years. But I use it now as a reminder that I don’t want to be like that company. I don’t agree that those who cause the most trouble should be rewarded with services, products or prices that your best customers can’t have. Doesn’t it make more sense to reward the good customers rather than those who cause trouble?
Of course, if the complaints are justified then that’s different. If you’ve made a mistake or provided an unsatisfactory product or service then you should make amends and go above and beyond to apologise for the mistake.
It’s also quite reasonable for you to go above and beyond for customers, over-delivering and doing or giving ‘a little bit more’.
But in the general sense, it’s important to have clear boundaries and policies around how you work, what you provide and how much you charge and stick to them. If someone is making unreasonable demands upon you, don’t give in and provide something that you wouldn’t offer to every other customer. Perhaps they are not actually the right customer for you … perhaps there are other businesses that can provide what they’re looking for as a standard service, in which case it’s better for them to go to that store or service provider.
Next time a customer is placing unreasonable demands upon you, before giving in stop and ask yourself if you’re rewarding their bad behaviour.