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Keeping the Peace With Difficult Clients

February 24, 2011 By: Michael Browne

We’ve all been there—faced with a difficult, demanding client who makes arbitrary decisions and impossible requests without any regard to the amount of time and labor they’re costing you. Of course, being an independent,  home-based travel agent allows you a certain flexibility that many don’t have of cutting ties with a difficult client—but in challenging economic times that’s an option you may be hesitant to pursue.  So, for as long as you can reasonably take it, you do.

No, the customer is not always right. You know that, I know that, and everyone who has ever dealt with the public in any business capacity knows that. But rather than losing the business, sometimes it’s best to just suck it up and be as accommodating as you can. You can’t drop your game face. Maintaining professionalism is your best chance of saving the relationship. Here are some tips to dealing with difficult clients:

Don’t Argue: Resist the temptation no matter how unreasonable the customer is. Leave emotions out of it. Do not stoop to personal attacks, even if that’s what the customer has resorted to.

Present the Facts: Explain clearly and logically why the customer’s request or demand can not be met. Focus on the transaction while avoiding saying “you” and “I.” Never just say “it’s policy.”

Avoid Negative Words: Hearing things like “can’t,” “won’t,” “impossible” or “never” will not make the customer feel that you actually wish to serve him or her.

Offer Solutions: You may not be able to give the customer exactly what he wants, but offer a substitute. It’s best to offer two or three clear suggestions and allow the customer to choose.

Let the Customer Propose an Alternative: Ask the customer directly what he thinks is fair considering the circumstances. Many people will respond reasonably with a request you can honor.

Let the Customer Save Face: Provide an out. Apologize for misunderstanding, even if you haven’t. Don’t just try to prove the customer wrong. Sometimes you can save the relationship by sparing their pride.

If you follow this advice, you have a good chance of diffusing the situation and even salvaging the relationship between you and your client. In the end, however, remember that as hard as you try you may not be able to please everyone. Sometimes business relationshipss end, but at least you'll know you did everything possible to keep the client happy.


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