Business scenario: Dealing with super-demanding customers

June 21, 2017

This post is part of our Business Scenario series. Read the entire series here on the Clover blog, and check back for more tips and tactics.

Does it seem like customers today are more demanding than ever? Getting anything you want at the click of a button online can make you a little impatient with the slower pace of a real-world interaction.

But the customer is always right–right? Customer service is critical to any business, and the personal touch is particularly important for a small business that’s aiming to fit in as part of a community. But it is possible to take customer service too far. Some customers are simply too demanding. Some requests simply can’t be fulfilled.

Here are 5 types of demanding customers, and some strategies for handling them:

1. The Discount Diva

This customer always has a reason for getting a discount. Maybe the item she wants to buy is a display model. Maybe he’s found some microscopic damage. Maybe she’s just a haggler. Of course, you always want to keep the customer happy. But you also can’t give away your merchandise for free.

Handling strategy: Set a maximum discount policy, and make sure your staff knows it’s a firm rule. They can use this rule as a backstop when talking to customers. “I’m sorry, it’s company policy” is a great way to shut down discussion. Staff can then redirect the customer to another product if they don’t seem satisfied.

2. The Returnenator

A generous return policy is a great way to keep customers loyal. But this customer takes advantage of your generosity. He repeatedly returns items, and sometimes they’re obviously used or even damaged. Your policy has always been that satisfaction is guaranteed, and returns are accepted with no questions asked, but this person is pushing the limits.

Handling strategy: The next time this customer attempts to return an item, alert them that they have reached their limit of allowable returns for the year. Explain that as a small business, you are grateful for their loyalty, but need to protect your assets by setting limits on returns or exchanges. Notify your staff that they can only accept returns or exchanges from this customer if the product is unopened, tags on, or otherwise in mint condition.

3. The Staff Hog

This customer has a lot of questions. A lot of questions. She takes up a lot of your staff’s time, but doesn’t buy much. He’s a time-suck. You want your staff to be attentive, but you don’t want one window-shopper to take up all their time.

Handling strategy: Ask this person to make an appointment next time they want to come in. Pitch it as a perk and offer them a personal shopper who will prepare some products to show them and answer all of their questions. This way, you can prepare for the time-suck and plan accordingly.

4. The Promo-Haggler

Every time you run a promotion, this customer shows up. He wants to get the promotional price after the sale is over. She wants to apply the discount to a product that isn’t on sale.

Handling strategy: Make sure every promotion comes with fine print, and empower your staff to enforce the rules. Allow your staff to use their judgment—they can bend the rules when it feels appropriate, but become sticklers as soon as they spot someone who seems like they’re trying to work the system.

5. The VVVIP

Don’t you know who this person is? It’s true, she is a loyal repeat customer. But he seems to think that entitles him to interrupt your staff when they’re helping other customers, cut in line, get special discounts, put items on hold even though you don’t have a hold policy, etc. It all makes you wonder how much a loyal customer is really worth.

Handling strategy: Time for some psychology. Have your staff make a show of taking this person into their confidence. Make them feel like they’re part of the team—and make it clear that a team player waits their turn. And make sure you have a program in place for rewarding loyal customers, within reason.

A rewards program is a great way to make sure you keep your best customers happy, without hurting your bottom line. A program like Insights can help you build your loyalty program on data, not on who complains the most.

[image: shopping by Hamza Butt on flickr]