Friday, November 12, 2004

Pain-in-the-neck customers 

Singaporeans can be difficult customers sometimes (see earlier post). However, all countries have their share of difficult customers. Ron Kaufman, author of the book Up Your Service!, has the following to say in today's Recruit section of The Straits Times.

[S]ome customers complain and complain and complain. They never stop complaining. No matter what you do, they will still complain. If you work too hard to keep these “pain-in-the-neck” customers happy, they can run you right out of business.

Pain-in-the-neck customers don’t want to be satisfied. They like being unsatisfied. They frustrate your staff and irritate your other customers.
Kaufman recommends the following for handling such customers.

  • Recognise that most complaining customers are not a pain in the neck. “On average, about 2 per cent of your customer base will complain, but only 2 per cent of that 2 per cent are truly nuts.”

  • Focus on damage control. “Isolate a pain-in-the-neck away from your staff, your customers and your brand.”

  • Protect your staff and limit your legal liability. “If a pain-in-the-neck uses threats, abusive language or makes potentially harmful gestures, contact the security team immediately and let them work it out with your lawyers.”

  • Pass the difficult customer to your competition. Kaufman cited the case of an airline who wrote a letter to an unsatisfied customer stating the following: “[A]s we appear unable to satisfy you despite our best efforts, may I recommend you contact one of the other airlines that fly to your frequent destinations. I attach a list of telephone numbers for your convenience...”

  • We all get our kicks in different ways. Some get theirs from the attention that they get from others. And while some want to be loved, others love to be feared.

    Even as businesses strive to upgrade their customer service, they must recognise when that service no longer produces the desired return.


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