How to Turn Difficult Customers Into Partners

We’ve all dealt with “problem customers.” Whether a problem arises in the midst of a transaction, or they just walk in angry, it’s pretty easy to spot these guys and situations from a mile away. Now what if I told you that you could flip around a negative transaction like that so drastically that the two of you could end up working together (even in a small way)? Here are the three steps to turning a difficult customer into a partner.

Offering partnership opportunity

Stay a step ahead

When we have a client we know is going to have concerns about the timing of our service, want the royal treatment, etc., we note the file and put our ‘kid gloves’ on. From years of experience, you can tell pretty early on in a phone call which customers may need a little extra TLC. Call them before they call you. Provide updates whenever you can and beat them to the punch. Then, when the transaction is complete, follow-up to really wow them by going the extra mile in the name of customer service.

Hear them out

If you can’t beat a customer to the punch, or if a problem arises in the middle of the transaction, you have to go another route. Though instead of hurrying to tell them why your company is right and they’re wrong, put your listening ears on.

Sometimes all you need to do for an upset customer is hear what they have to say. You can offer all of the solutions in the world: offering to waive the fee, offering store credit, or another service/product of yours for no extra charge- sometimes, all a person wants is to be heard. Identify what the actual root of the problem is by really listening (not just nodding and ‘mhm-ing’ in affirmation occasionally). Hear why it is they’re upset and where that frustration is coming from. Apologize, if necessary, but, above all else, make sure they know that their feelings are valid and important.

Once you’ve completely heard them out, ask for feedback. Feedback straight from the customer’s mouth, whether negative or positive, is invaluable to your business. Ask what could have been differently and what would have nipped the problem in the bud. And, just as you did before, really listen to what they have to say and adjust your business accordingly.

Offering opportunity
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Approach them with an opportunity

Once the problem has been completely solved, you should have a pretty happy customer on your hands. It should be evident that your business goes above and beyond to fix a problem. To make matters even better, make them a low-key partnership deal.

There are a couple different ways you can turn around and work with this previously unhappy customer. You could ask if they have a blog so that the two of you could swap blog posts and create a cross-blogging partnership. If they don’t have a blog themselves, ask if they’d like to write a guest post for your blog. Your blog gets new content and they get exposure- it’s a win-win. Or you could feature them in your company news letter as a customer highlight- highlighting what they do for a living and a brief review of your company.