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Dealing With Nasty Customers

Furniture World Magazine


Their Prozac supply runs out and they take it out on you.

Nasty customers are a fact of life. Their Prozac supply runs out and they take it out on you. They were unhappy with their last furniture purchase, and the next thing you know, they're beating up on you. It doesn't matter if you're a rookie or a pro. You could be young or old, male or female. Just look at nasty customers the wrong way, and they'll let you have it with both barrels. Answer their objections to their dissatisfaction, and they'll reload and let you have it again. These are customers who spit, steam, and sometimes use four-letter words. They try to intimidate, love to complain, and may get out of control.
Nasty customers are the ones who say things like:

  • "You apparently don't know what you're talking about."
  • "Your competition is much cheaper."
  • "I'm surprised anybody buys furniture from you."
  • "It's a wonder you're still in business."
  • "I never pay sales tax, and I certainly am not going to pay what you ask."
  • "Where was your last job-McDonald's?"

Nasty customers are worse than tough customers. Tough customers make you earn their business. Nasty customers make you wish you had never crossed their paths. They can be rude, intimidating, manipulative, mean, vulgar, and as many other less-than-complimentary adjectives you can fit in a sentence. Nasty customers come in all ages, sizes, and walks of life. If you never encounter a nasty customer, go on to the next page. If you do have an occasional run-in with Mr. or Ms. Nasty, here are some common misconceptions you might want to think about.

Misconception #1

False. Nasty customers may lie. Just because they told you they could get the same piece a lot cheaper from someone else, doesn't mean that they can. They just want to see if they can play with your head, or put you up on the auction block over price. This is the same customer who "used to be in the business," "never pays list," or "doesn't need what you sell." If you know what's right, stick to your guns. Nasty customers can be wrong.

Misconception #2

False. With nasty, arrogant customers, you can afford to be arrogant as well. You can also be ignorant to their demands. You can be ignorant, or you can be arrogant, but you can't be both at the same time. If you're both, you might turn into a nasty yourself.

Misconception #3

Bull. Just because nasty customers are satisfied doesn't mean they're coming back. Only your loyal customers will come back. The trick is to switch customer satisfaction to customer loyalty. But what if you don't want them to come back? What if they are too much of a hassle to deal with for the few bucks they spend? You must decide. You are in control. Handling nasty customers effectively means being in the driver's seat.

Misconception #4

Nasty customers can be opportunists. Gimmee, gimmee, gimmee. Better terms, lower prices, what more can I have? Give them an inch and they take two miles. Don't expect to get back as much as you lay out for a nasty customer. They always want to be one up.

Misconception #5

False. They like to think that they are the world's best negotiators. They brag about "buying at cost," "spending less than wholesale," "beating salespeople into the ground," or "getting things thrown in for free." The truth is, nasty customers like to give that perception, although it is not at all reality. They will bend when shown that benefits far outweigh the price and that service is a necessity rather than an option. Price shoppers need to hear "no," rather than "OK, I'll take your offer." They will pay your price if their need is great enough. It is up to you to develop that need.

Misconception #6

Sometimes true. Mostly false. All nasty customers have a soft spot somewhere. You have to find it. Get them to smile. Get them to laugh. Say nice things about their mother. Find out if they like flowers. Do they have small children or grandchildren? Do they have a favorite charity? Get them to open up. Get some emotion. Be their friend. It's tough to be nasty to somebody who wants you to like him or her. Forget your product and price list for a minute and concentrate on a little customer rapport.

The funny part about nasty customers is that they usually know they're nasty. It's a part of their personality. Sometimes you have to level out the playing field and not try to beat them at their own game, but to have their game end in a draw. You need them to buy from you and feel good about it at the same time. Don't succumb to a nasty customer. Don't lay down and play dead. Make it a game. Get their money and get a smile out of them at the same time. Make them glad they had a chance to deal with you and your store. Turn a "whiner" into a "winner" and get a sale at the same time.

Editor's note: Customers who confront you with their objections may seem nasty. Despite your best efforts, they still have questions about you, your products and your company. Customers who experience sticker shock or longer than expected delivery times may become defensive or aggressive. They are surprised and disappointed. They may be afraid that they are going to make a mistake, or that you will take advantage of them. They may have been "burned" before.

Customers who lack social skills may lash out at you. Handled properly these folks can become your best customers. Who else would put up with this abuse? In the April/ May issue, Cathy Finney points out that objections are opportunities in disguise. If your products didn't satisfy at least some of their needs, they wouldn't expend the effort to object. Some folks lead with a confrontational attitude. Try not to get flustered. If you can uncover their real needs and satisfy them in a professional manner you just might tame a nasty customer and reap the rewards of repeat business and customer referrals.

If you just can't deal with a particular customer, try asking the customer if he or she would feel more comfortable working with your associate or your manager. For more information on dealing with difficult sales situations see the "Sales Skill Index" on www.furninfo.com the website of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine.


Bob Popyk is the publisher of Creative SellingĀ®, a monthly newsletter on sales and marketing strategies for high-ticket retailers. His sales meetings and seminars are presented nationwide to major companies and industries. Questions on any aspect of sales education can be sent to FURNITURE WORLD at popyk@furninfo.com.