You don’t have to take an abusive customer
This month’s column will start with a letter from a reader.
This is the second year we signed to work with a commercial builder. It seems the builder is abusive and lies to the owner that our work is not complete or done to their liking. We admit if we make a mistake and clean it up in a timely manner.
We know our strengths and weakness. We are a growing company and have an excellent reputation. But when a supervisor for a large builder becomes stressed out about an unrealistic schedule he begins the abusive behavior. We get that, but you can’t verbally whip people into producing. I believe this behavior is outdated.
My question is: How do we handle these types of companies and their abusive behavior?
I told the people who wrote the letter that they were right. There is no place for abusive customers in a cooperative environment where everyone is trying to get the project completed on time and on budget.
You’ve got more patience than most. Some people would even walk off the job, saying that they won’t work for abusive customers. Many would fire the customer after the job is complete and the warranty period is satisfied.
My rule is that you do not have to take abusive language or abusive actions from any customer.
Unfortunately, dispatchers deal with this all the time. An HVAC sales service manager told me that a customer made his dispatcher cry — and she doesn’t cry often. He called the man back and told him that he understood that the man was upset. However, the man made it personal and verbally attacked his dispatcher, which was not acceptable. The only way they were going to continue taking care of his needs was if he called the dispatcher and apologized.
The customer called and apologized — and he even sent her flowers.
The thing that abusive customers do is make business situations and issues personal. They think they have control. And to a certain extent, they do, since they are paying you to perform a job.
Call them on their actions. You understand the business situation. There is no need to make any of it personal and abusive. Attacking you doesn’t get the job done quicker. It won’t solve the issue and in fact impede it.
Then decide whether you are going to work for this customer ever again. You can fire a customer. This is a perfect situation to do so.
No fun in the sun
Last summer was a hot, dry one in much of the country. One of the installation managers I work with wasn’t having any fun. He was depressed and dreaded coming to work. His attitude was rubbing off on the HVAC sales field crews.
The remedy was simple: I made him find something to complement each crew member on every day. He did it. Now he’s feeling better and the field employees are feeling better. Work has improved, too
When it is hot you usually have so many things on your to-do list that you feel that all you are doing is putting out “fires.” You are tired and grumpy.
If you are like that, guess what? Your employees, who are also probably tired, get in a bad mood, too. They aren’t cheerful on the telephone with customers.
Your grumpiness rubs off on your customers.
The death spiral has begun.
The quick and easy way to eliminate the problem: Say thank you.
Every day find a way to say thank you to your field and office personnel. When you are sincere, you can’t be grumpy. You will feel better just by saying it. Then, your attitude picks up and everyone’s attitude does as well.
Tell your field employees you appreciate their hard, sweaty work in the hot sun. Bring them an ice cream cone. They will appreciate it and you will feel a lot better.
Saying throughout the year helps build morale in busy and slow times. Do it. It takes less than a minute per employee. You will enjoy coming to work and so will your employees.
Copyright Ruth King. All rights reserved. Write to Ruth King at Profitability Revolution LLC, 1650 Oakbrook Drive, Suite 405, Norcross, GA 30093; email firstname.lastname@example.org; call (770) 729-8000.