As a company that offers cleaning services, we get to deal every day with all types of customers. This can become a pleasant experience because human interaction can feel rewarding, positive and constructive. However, especially when interacting with people in a position of power, it can turn into a big problem.
Let’s read how to make our best to spot difficult customers right away and how to deal with them through every step of our service.
Prepare In Advance
Gathering as much knowledge about the situation before going in is a huge advantage. There are two factors that you (ideally) would know beforehand: your service and your customer.
The first one speaks for itself: knowing your service is fundamental. Particularly, knowing what are you offering, what are you not offering, what is considered an “extra” and how much you should charge for it, and what services or tasks are within the legal and moral boundaries of your company.
The second fact that can help you is knowing the customer and obtaining information about them (if you have the chance).
If this person has hired several cleaning services before, finding out why they switched is important. Was the reason merely a financial issue? Or was it a personality clash between the customer and the company? Did the customer cancel the service or was it the previous company?
Good customers will often remain neutral and objective when explaining why they are switching companies, focusing on the facts instead of their feelings. If the customer was not happy with their previous service, or if they are demeaning towards the previous company or worker, it could be a bad sign.
Communicate Properly With Your Customers
When talking to the customer, it is important to let them know a detailed list of what your service includes, if possible, with a written copy (emailed, available on a website, etc.) both before and after offering the service. You also want to listen if they have any questions or comments about the service they’ve hired.
Avoiding unmet expectations will help you avoid angry customers later on. Be clear and make sure the other person knows what they’re getting. Customers tend to assume or believe that certain tasks are within the service, such as watering plants, cleaning inside the cabinets or doing the laundry, for example.
These speculations will not happen if communication is clear.
Listen to the Customer
Sometimes, customers have had a bad day and they just want to vent.
Active listening is crucial. Saying “hmm”, “I understand” while they’re explaining the issue, will make them feel heard and valued.
Another important step is to let them offer the solution. Listen to what they come up with. It might be just what you were thinking, but if you let them say it, they will be the ones deciding what’s happening next, instead of just having to “agree” or compromise to the solution you come up with.
Transform the Problem Into a Win-Win Situation
Even though you’d want nothing else to do with this customer after your service, while you’re still at it you need to stay professional and try -all within reasonable boundaries- to turn this into a positive outcome for both parties.
Compromising and setting boundaries are two good examples of positive behavior. Knowing when to switch between each one is a skill that can be improved with time.
Remember: when an issue arises, a difficult customer is usually in a position of “customer vs employee”. The goal here is to change this into “employee AND the customer vs the problem”.
This means that the focus should not be on the person that “created” the problem, but more on the problem itself and how to find ways to fix this and go from “bad experience” to “positive outcome” at the end.
Difficult customers -with a few exceptions- are able to change their ways, especially after a problem was fixed successfully and handled professionally.
Compromising With Your Customers
If there’s an issue and both parties have a different understanding of what the solution should be, there has to be compromising. When explaining why their solution is not possible, make sure you highlight the positive aspects of their solution. “I like the idea of…” “While I think it’s effective to do X…I won’t be able to perform this task because Y”
After doing so, offer an alternative. “However, I’d be happy to do Z if you agree, which will achieve the same purpose” “What if I do Z? This will fix the issue because…”.
It is important to set boundaries for a) The services you will offer as well as “extra” steps that you will do (e.g., repeating a task if the customer is not happy, performing a task a certain way); and b) To the way you and your staff gets treated.
While it is important to scale the argument down, once the customer gets aggressive or disrespectful is time to disengage from the conversation. There’s no need to yell or insult back, just walking away sets a boundary and shows them that you will not tolerate their behavior.
Let’s say you and/or the customer have come up with a solution. Before proceeding, always make sure you’re on the same page with the client by saying: if I do this, will you be happy/satisfied?
This is a good way of setting boundaries. Otherwise, you may fix the situation but the customer will say they’re still unhappy and want you to do the same task again and again.
There’s a very fine line between spending a little extra time to ensure the client’s satisfaction, and spending hours and hours for a customer that won’t be happy, no matter what you do.
Avoid Negative Reviews from Customers
In the present day, negative reviews are not only word-to-word, but they are also present online for everyone to see (just as your positive reviews) and they do impact your business. There are hundreds of different companies competing to offer the same service, so each review counts.
This is why you should deal with issues fast before the customer decides on posting a negative review. That is besides offering excellent service, of course. Questions such as “What can we do in order to fix this?” should be asked when contacting the customer. In the long run, it is much more effective to offer a second cleaning service for free to “fix” the areas that the customer was not happy with.
Make sure you don’t focus on the problem or the person/people at fault. Instead, offer a sincere apology and offer a solution/listen to the customer’s requirement to change its opinion.
Keep Contact with Other Companies
Small businesses owners and managers, more often than not, know of each other and even have a cordial relationship. Healthy competition between companies is not only achievable but helpful because it allows you to share valuable information. And one piece of information that everyone should know is bad customers.
Sometimes customers are not problematic or difficult. Maybe they are not the right fit for your company, in terms of budget, type of service, standards, etc. In this case, referring them to a different company could be a good solution.
That being said, if you feel like they’re going to cause a problem everywhere they go, it might be smarter to contact the other company first about this customer and their needs and see if they’d be interested in offering their services.
Related: Working With Your Competition
Earn Feedback From Your Customers
Even if your service was excellent, the customer will feel heard and valued if you seek feedback from them. If they were not happy with your service, make sure you take notes of every detail that they found unpleasant, and work on a solution to change this.
And if they did like the service, ask for feedback too! Ask for 2 or 3 random tasks that were part of the cleaning checklist and confirm that they were performed properly.
Ask for feedback regularly. For example, after the first service, the fifth service, and then once a year. Make sure customers know they can always leave their questions or comments through your communication channels, especially social media.
Of course, each customer may have different opinions about what they would change. This covers different areas such as performance, customer service, efficiency, and even what tasks they found unnecessary or irrelevant.
Growth is not possible without change and healthy self-criticism, and getting that from someone outside the company is more than valuable.
Don’t Be Afraid to Lose a Problematic Customer
Finally, if the customer is not open to compromising or expressing how they would feel happy, it could be in your best interest to let go of this customer. This is true particularly when they were aggressive or dismissive to your staff.
Serving people that were disrespectful without a valid reason is not a pleasant experience. If customers are important, the staff is just as important, if not more so. A happy staff will take care of their jobs and their clients on their own initiative.
Simply saying “we are not a good fit” is a polite and neutral response. It also allows you to stay out of any drama and, again, not focus on the problem, just stating the facts.
However, keep in mind this should be the absolute final step, and think this through before losing a customer, especially if it’s a long-time customer.
Earning the client’s trust and satisfaction is not easy, but by communicating and focusing on the solution you’ll be able to keep the majority of good clients. And don’t feel bad if you have to lose one or two over the years!
Not pleasing everyone is unfortunate, but it is a natural experience in our personal and professional lives, especially when managing a company. Just make sure you did everything within your power to avoid this while respecting your company and your staff.