Curmudgeonly Customers

By Cindy Waxer

You’ve sent birthday presents, fruit baskets and Christmas cards – but you still can’t get that curmudgeonly client to warm up to you. Well, not to worry. While some customers can be incredibly difficult to communicate with, there are ways of turning even the most difficult buyers into buddies. Just ask Carole Nicolaides, president of Progressive Leadership Inc., a firm that offers personal and corporate success coaching, consulting and training in knowledge management and organizational development. When dealing with a difficult prospect or client, she recommends taking these five simple steps.

1. Show Them You Care
It could very well be that your difficult customer is simply overworked, stressed out and underpaid. Demonstrate an interest in his or her success and you will break down barriers that may have built up over the years.

2. Communicate Accordingly
Words have different meanings for different industries, so be certain to acquaint yourself with the buzzwords and jargon associated with the industry you’re dealing with. Being able to speak your customers’ language not only demonstrates your intelligence, but also shows that you’re willing to relate to them on their level.

3. Friends Forever
People stick with people that they like. If a customer grows to like you, he or she will follow you throughout your career. Take the time to learn about your customers – both their professional needs as well as who they are as people.

4. Disagree Delicately
Even if you know you’re right, don’t argue with your customers. Disagree with compassion. Make every effort to communicate your point without belittling your customers. Belittling your clients is a surefire way to lose their business.

5. Ignore Weaknesses
Don’t ever try to change your customers. No matter how irritating or disruptive their behavior, trying to change customers will only anger them. Instead, focus on aspects that excite clients – things that they feel proud of – and watch their weaknesses begin to deteriorate.