High-Maintenance Customers: 5 Tips for Making Unpleasant Interactions Useful

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As anyone who’s worked with customers knows, interactions can vary from pleasant to nightmarish. Although rude customers can be unpleasant, some customers clearly fall into the “high maintenance” category, and it’s sometimes impossible to provide a service they find satisfactory. However, interacting with these customers doesn’t have to be a frustrating waste of time, and changing your perspective can help you glean valuable insight for your business. Here are a few tips for leveraging these interactions into actionable information.

Improve Your Website

Complaints can be unpleasant to deal with, but they can also unveil weak spots with your business. Companies often spend a considerable amount of money to hire consultants who uncover problems with their online content. High-maintenance customers, however, can provide similar, real-world insight for free. If a high-maintenance customer has difficulty finding information on your website, ask where they looked for the information in the first place; their answer can help you restructure your website or add links. Take special note if the customer was navigating your website correctly but still couldn’t find the appropriate link. Website readability is critical for providing a pleasant experience, and customers missing links indicates a potential problem.



Find Out How They Think

Beyond finding spots for improvement on your website, high-maintenance customers can also help you uncover how people interact with your website. At most of our day-to-day jobs, we typically interact with people comfortable with using computers. For some people, however, the internet remains an unfamiliar and counterintuitive place, and few websites provide an adequate experience. If a particularly high-maintenance customer is willing to spend some time with you, and they usually are, use the time to find out how they view the interaction with your business. In many cases, they can offer a critique of your website that no consultant can match, and this information can make your business stand out to the surprising number of people who are computer illiterate.

Plan Meetings Around Concerns

Again, high-maintenance customers can provide the sort of valuable third-party insight many businesses pay consultants for. Jot down any surprising questions or concerns you uncover, and ask others to do the same. During meetings, have people share the most surprising, insightful, or even just baffling questions they’ve encountered when interacting with customers. Use these questions or complaints as a springboard to ask if there are fundamental changes or small details you can change to give customers a more pleasant interaction with your company. Focus on the connection between your technology and the products you sell. If you’re offering cloud-based file storage, like Amazon, make sure to explain the benefits and answer questions people with minimal tech skills often have. Even if you offer a completely different product, a list of health benefits and studies can be useful. Do you sell products often used as gifts? A primer for inexperienced shoppers might lead to more sales. People who are inexperienced with your products or the internet often ask questions nobody else would consider, and spending some time pondering their questions can give your business an edge.



Change Your Perspective

The idea that the customer is always right has generally fallen into disfavour over the years. However, companies still need to consider whether customer complaint dismissed as unreasonable are, in fact, based on actual problems. Along with tracking individual questions high-maintenance customers bring up, track the frequency of the most common complaints. If the same complaint pop up consistently, consider whether high-maintenance customers are actually being unreasonable or if there are more fundamental problems with your business. Try to strike the right balance between focusing on customer satisfaction and cutting off customers when they’re simply too demanding or unreasonable, but also take time to ask if your business simply isn’t providing an understandable and reasonable level of service.

Lean What Your Business Can Tolerate

Keeping your employees satisfied is essential for maintaining a productive environment, and forcing employees to regularly deal with unreasonable customers can harm office morale. Furthermore, your business has limited resources, and spending too many on high-maintenance customers can be unprofitable. Although your business can benefit from interactions with high-maintenance customers, you don’t necessarily want to deal with everyone who calls or emails. Use interactions with high-maintenance customers to create guidelines for what levels of unreasonable demands your company can tolerate. Doing so lets you determine which customers will be a drag on your resources early, and it empowers your employees to deal with problematic customers in a more reasonable manner. Determining clear guidelines for recognizing the signs of problematic customers sets the stage for a more productive work environment, but the only way to recognize these traits is to engage with them on occasion to see how they’re affecting your business in particular.



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