Occasionally you can encounter customers who just don't seem to appreciate what you've done for them. You jump through hoops to get a project finished. You give them special pricing. You acquiesce to their every demand. You go the extra mile and there is no recognition for your effort. Sometimes, even after you've gone way above and beyond, they even have the audacity to complain. What do you do?
Do you scold them, and tell them they should be more grateful? That's never a good strategy. Do you "fire" them, as the philosophy being hyped a couple of years ago would suggest? Dangerous. Do you just accept that 'the customer is always right' and ignore it? Well, sort of.
Is the customer always right? Of course not. But there's just no getting around the fact that customers have choices - lots of them these days. And if we're not prepared to deal with their needs, there's someone out there who will. Are there some worth getting rid of? Maybe. But it would be the very unprofitable customers that are expendable - not the ungrateful ones.
If this is happening to you, it's worthwhile examining why your customer appears ungrateful. Sometimes it's because they feel they aren't getting good value. So a comparison check of your competition or similar organizations might be in order. Sometimes they simply just don't realize the extent of the work you're really doing. It's like a black box: they ask for something, and you deliver it. They have no clue as to what goes on in between. In this case, it can help if you gradually and gently educate them as to some of your internal processes. Or you can begin to charge nominal fees for extras. This way, even if you waive the fees when billing time comes, the customer is aware they've gotten something for nothing.
One of the most common reasons for customers to be ungrateful, however, is that they start to perceive that you and the people they deal with just don't care. A veritable mountain of research from every corner of the world points to the fact that customers will stop appreciating us when they feel we have stopped appreciating them. That's where a focus on customer service, and customer service training pays off.
[This is from the Archive Project - where we are attempting to get 10 years of Winning at Work on the web! Original publication date: 18 August, 2006]
Shaun Belding is CEO of The Belding Group and has been consulting and speaking on customer experience, employee engagement and workplace performance for 23 years
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