We all know what it’s like to deal with a difficult customer. Unfortunately, that’s part of our business. Whether we like it or not we are sometimes forced to spend our time handling unreasonable customers. Sometimes these customers are difficult from the beginning. Other times they become difficult over time. Whatever your situation I would like to offer you a few things to consider the next time a challenging customer comes your way.
First, it is always better to follow your instincts and not sign up a difficult customer to begin with. How will you know? You just know. There are clues that you can easily pick up on. Look at your customer’s business. Are you dealing with the decision maker? Does your customer seem like it will pay its bill? How long have they been in business? What is their reputation like? You should ask around if you feel uneasy about taking on a customer. There is no harm in making a few phone calls to find out more about this potential customer’s situation. You are better off asking the tough questions now instead of regretting it later.
Second, will your new customer agree to a service contract? If the customer refuses to sign a contract you need to find out why. They should have a good reason. You will need to make a business decision about whether or not you want to take on a customer without a contract. Some customers are so important that you may want to honor that customer’s wishes and not push a contract. It is up to you. Remember to follow your instincts. I am of the opinion that you should have a contract with every customer you have. However, I know others in this industry that don’t follow that rule and have done very well. I respect their decision. Again, it is a business decision that you have to make on a case by case basis.
Third, does your customer constantly complain about your product or service? If this is happening to you my advice is to document everything. For example, your customer might call you up and say “the napkins you delivered last week were stained.” So, now you have an unhappy customer. You need to look into the situation. Are your napkins really stained? If so, correct the problem. Once it is corrected, document it in your customer’s file. Make sure you write in the date of the complaint and when it was corrected. Make your notes as detailed as possible. Now, what if the napkins never were stained but your customer is just complaining because they want out of your contract? Then you need to let your customer know that you looked into the problem and the napkins were not stained. Document that in their file. Make sure you note that the complaint came in, you investigated it, and it was false. Keep good notes.
In conclusion, dealing with a difficult customer is challenging. It can cause you to waste time and money. Some customers are never happy. You have decide if you are willing to wait it out or move on. Regardless of what you decide, you should be prepared for litigation. By keeping up good documentation you are helping your case. If your customer should cancel service because it claims you never remedied their complaints, your documentation will come in handy. If you have a contract you can sue your customer for breach of contract and your attorney can use your documentation to show that you indeed provided good service.
Have you ever been involved in litigation involving a customer complaint? If so, please share your story.
The content in this article should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.
Serena Putegnat is a practicing Texas attorney. Putegnat owns Model Laundry with her siblings in the Rio Grande Valley.