I wish I could take the credit for all of the strategies I share in our training and in my books. But the truth is, I learn far more from the people around me than I could ever teach. Several years ago, when I was working in South Africa, I witnessed a virtual clinic on how to deal with a Know-It-All customer. It was a wonderful thing to watch, and I thought it would be worth sharing.
This know-it-all customer was obnoxious
I was working with a prominent retailer, and happened to be coaching in one of their stores when the Know-It-All customer came in. He was, to say the least, obnoxious. He went on and on about how much the store was ripping people off, that he used to be in the manufacturing business and knew what the real value of the goods were. He quoted facts, figures, gross margins and manufacturing costs. He was loud and persistent, and didn’t appear to have any point to his rant other than to impress upon everyone in the store how Very Clever he was.
The salesperson handled this customer beautifully
While I was watching, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck going up. (I’m not going to lie – arrogance pushes my buttons!). Chris, the young salesman he’d been talking to, however, handled the situation beautifully. Instead of becoming irritated or defensive as many of us (including me) might, he simply stood by the know-it-all customer and listened intently, making strong eye contact, nodding his head and smiling.
When the customer had finished his tirade, Chris gave him a broad smile and said, “Wow – you really know the business! Thank you. I really learned something today.” The customer beamed, and walked away feeling that he had accomplished something.
Listening to the know-it-all paid off
Ten minutes later the customer returned with a question, and a completely different attitude. He was warm, and in good humor – returning to the store to speak with his new friend. A new loyal customer from the ashes of a Customer from Hell. And a testament to the value of strong, active listening skills, patience, and a positive attitude.
It’s all about respect
Why did Chris’ patient listening pay off? It was because he tapped into one of the customer’s positive hot-buttons. When Chris listened, then validated the customer’s knowledge, with “you really know your business,” he sent the message that he respected the customer.
Know-it-alls come in all shapes and sizes. Some, like this customer, are bombastic and obnoxious. Others like to correct you when they perceive you’ve made a mistake. The one thing they have in common – that drives their behaviour, is a need for respect.
Respect is a powerful motivator for most people and when you tap into it, as Chris did, it’s much easier to create successful interactions.