Why You Should be Thankful for Difficult Clients

3/20/2017 11:04:00 AM
It’s Friday evening. You’re home with your family after a long week. The steaks are just coming off the grill, you have poured a frosty cold glass of your favorite craft beer, and the family is gathering around the table. Then it happens… your phone rings. Your stomach sinks as you look at the caller ID. It’s one of your most difficult clients. We’ll call him Stan.

Stan is never satisfied. Since the day you turned the system over to him, he’s done nothing but complain, making your life and that of your employees miserable at every opportunity. You’ve done what you can to try and address his complaints. But from internet outages and locked up cable boxes, to Netflix server issues and iTunes authentication errors, you are powerless to completely prevent his technology from failing. And explaining the often-shaky nature of consumer electronics to Stan feels like an exercise in futility. From Stan’s perspective, he spent a lot of money with you and his system should “just work.” So he never hesitates to offload his frustration any time it doesn’t.
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Wishing Stan Away
For all intents and purposes, you’ve given up on Stan. You’re not quite ready to fire him, but you certainly wouldn't lose any sleep if he hired someone else. So you start screening his calls and delaying your replies to his emails. When you do speak with him you feel defensive and closed off. When he starts to rant you interrupt, offering suggestions before he’s had a chance to fully vent. You look for the first opportunity to end the dialogue, and approach servicing his system as a damage-control exercise, addressing issues as they arise and then crossing your fingers and hoping you won’t hear from him for a while.

But Stan always calls back eventually. And so the cycle continues. And unless you take a different approach, Stan will not only continue to be a dissatisfied source of misery for your entire company, but he’s also likely to tell his friends, his social media network, and anyone else who will listen, what a poor job you’ve done.

The Silver Lining
It’s important to realize that, instead of reeling back or getting defensive, you should actually be grateful for Stan’s complaints. Statistics show [https://www.groovehq.com/support/customer-support-statistics] that for every customer who complains, there are 26 customers who are experiencing the same frustration, albeit silently. So, when Stan complains, he’s actually offering immensely valuable insight into issues that are causing widespread frustration among your client base—even those who are silently getting fed up and going elsewhere.

Thanking Stan for bringing these concerns to light not only gets you in the right frame of mind to address the problem, but is one of the best ways to disarm this frustrated client. Then, take a close look at what’s causing his frustration and position yourself as an advocate to help get his experience back on track. Perhaps the issues that he is experiencing with Apple TV warrant having him try a Roku. Perhaps his ISP headaches warrant a Telco authorization so you can manage his account (for a fee of course). The specifics of the solution will depend on the situation, of course. But the most important thing is to recognize that Stan’s complaints are forcing you to think critically about the customer experience that you are providing. And if you can find a way to make Stan happy, just think about the results with the rest of your clients.

Turning a Negative Into a Positive
We all have customers like Stan. Dealing with them can be a frustrating and emotionally draining experience. But we must find ways to get comfortable dealing with these tough situations. By recognizing that there is immense value in the critical feedback that these clients provide, we turn these situations from a negative into a positive. When looked at in this way, difficult clients present a healthy challenge for us to improve our businesses. This elevates the experience not just for vocally frustrated clients like Stan, but for our entire client base.

Ours is a high-touch industry, and providing a great service has always been the name of the game. However, as we continue our slow and steady march toward a heavier reliance on service-based pricing, it’s more important now than ever that we are providing our clients with a great experience at each and every interaction—especially when things get tough. We should be thankful for clients like Stan, as they provide a critical tool in helping us sharpen our customer service skills.


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