Avoid Being Mistreated by Customers

“The customer is always right, except when they are wrong.” – Diylol.com

If you run a business, have worked in customer service, or even have had even the remotest connection dealing with customers, you would know that the quote above rings true. Customers are often wrong – just that it is not easy to tell them so. These instances of ‘wrong’ could range from simply being irritating and impatient, to being disrespectful and even abusive. Whatever be the reason for such behaviour, the underlying fact is that no company or its representatives deserve to be mistreated by customers, and every effort must be made to curb such behaviour. The truth is that a company must learn how and become perfect the art of ensuring that customers treat it with respect, and know that such behaviour is unbecoming for any relationship. However, the sad part is that this respect cannot be demanded – but a company can command it by displaying the right attitude and intolerance to such misbehaviour.

Does your company know when it is being mistreated by customers? If yes, what steps would you take to ensure it does not happen? The fact is that if a company allows customers to disrespect it and treat it shabbily, soon it would lose respect of other stakeholders, and even its employees. It would be hard for such a company to run smoothly and successfully for too long. Everyone loves a respected and ‘winning’ company, and will run away from a company that cannot stand up for its own respect. We believe that there are some ways by which a company can ensure that it is not mistreated by customers. Ensure that your company does not come across as desperate and always available. Keep your business priorities in mind, and let the customer know that you have other commitments and are not available at their disposal at all times. This will help customers to appreciate your time and worth, and will be more willing to work on schedules that would be mutually beneficial.

By keeping a balance between meeting customer and business needs, what your company is actually doing is keeping future unreasonable requests and demands at bay. Customers need to understand that your time is valuable too, that there is a requirement for your company’s offerings, and that your company’s business needs are as important. It may be tempting to ‘bend over backwards’ for customers given that there is increasing competition, and a lot more players are vying for the attention for the same customers. However, doing so could put you in an awkward and disrespectful position in the long-term – customers come to expect that you would drop everything just to comply with their whims or satisfy some need.

If customers expect that your company is always on time for appointments, display a professional demeanour, be appropriately dressed for meetings, and other such professional behaviour, your company has the equal right to expect them from customers. A mutually beneficial relationship would be one where both parties are at par, treated equally, and no one feels like they are doing the other a favour through the relationship. The fact is that if you need a customer, the customer needs your offerings and service too, especially if an association with you has benefited them in several ways. Your company should always remain respectful and helpful, but know if and, when it is being mistreated by customers.

The reason, we believe, that a company would allow itself to be mistreated by customers is that they forget their role in the relationship. It would seem they forget that they have the expertise and knowledge of the products, industry, and in understanding customer needs. It would be essential to remind customers of this by being their confidante, continually doing what would be best for their business, and meeting their needs while balancing the needs of the company. When a company treats itself with respect, others will follow suit – customers included.

Another reason that a company would be mistreated by customers is by a company believing that gaining a new customer means complying with all their demands, and jumping ‘through hoops’ to please the ‘new one’. Even though some ‘pleasing’ may be required and acceptable, the fact is that companies forget to expect such commitment back from their customers. We spoke earlier about how to identify prospective customers that are simply wasting a company’s time. Well, a serious customer would be willing – to accept a written agreement, mutually beneficial to both parties, would live up to their end of the efforts required, provide information to the company when required, not regularly cancel or reschedule meetings at the last minute, and be willing to work in cooperation with the company to achieve the goals of both parties. It is important to remember, that your company has as much right to customer commitments, as customers expect from your company.

It would be prudent to have a robust and well-written Service Level Agreement (SLA) in place. This ensures that customers know what they can and cannot expect from a company, and the company would be mindful of its responsibilities to the customer. It would be better to prepare this SLA while directly discussing with the customer, such that there are no surprises, and the customer would have no reason to demand anything beyond the terms of the agreement. This not only keeps expectations to a reasonable level, thereby preventing your company from being mistreated by customers, but also helps your company to set aside adequate resources to serve its customer / customers. Setting expectations at the start of the relationship, and maintaining them throughout, would not only prevent your company from being mistreated by customers, but would also result in a much more fruitful and long-term association.

Sometime back, we had spoken about getting rid of bad clients. These ‘bad customers’ are the ones with whom the possibility of being mistreated would be high, apart from the fact that they would eat into the company’s resources, and yet prove to be extremely unprofitable. It would be best to rid your company of such customers. Being mistreated by customers should not be tolerated – even though letting them go with respect is something that your company should remain mindful of, since being rude and disrespectful has every possibility of backfiring on your company even if it were the customer’s fault to start with.

The fact is that the market is tough – and even though every company needs new customers, and cannot afford to lose existing ones, no company can ever make money long-term from being mistreated by customers, and those that do not care about its welfare. In fact, more resources, time, and effort is wasted on arguments, negotiating, and trying to appease such customers – with absolutely nil or little ROI. We know that the point of making customers and keeping them happy is so that they would benefit a company not just by repeat business, but also by recommending it to others. When your company has more of the mistreating kind of customers, it would be near impossible to break even, let alone make a profit. They would instead speak poorly of your company if their demands, albeit unreasonable ones, go unmet. These customers would be also be unlikely to recommend your company to others – no increase in business for your company, but huge amounts of resources and effort required on keeping them.

It would be better to grow your company slowly, rather than being mistreated by customers. However, under all situations and interactions, it would be imperative to keep your cool, stay respectful, and ensure that nothing that you say or do can be deemed as rude and discourteous by customers.

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