entrepreneur

Saying No to Customers

As small business owners, we love our clients. After all, they’re what keep us in business! It’s deeply important to us that our customers are happy, but it’s also equally important that we don’t allow them to push us around.

Let me be clear: most customers are wonderful people, and we’ve made some great friendships along our journey. And of course, we are always happy to fix mistakes and improve our services. But, as most of us know, not every person is easy – or possible – to please.

In the beginning, we had a really tough time dealing with difficult customers and outlandish requests. We’d freak out and panic because we want to do a great job and ensure all of our customers are happy. Now that we have some time and experience under our belts, however, we don’t break a sweat when we come across a tough client, because we’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way.

You Can’t Please Everyone

You could create the most delicious/original/unique/beautiful service or product, and someone out there will not like it. In fact, someone out there will hate it.

People come with their own tastes, expectations, needs, wants, and issues, and you cannot possibly meet all of them. And even if you did, someone out there will still not like it – still – because they are having a bad day.

It’s (Usually) Not About You

When a customer overreacts to a small issue – like cilantro as a garnish, or a wrinkled pillowcase – it is usually not really about the issue. It’s about something else.

When people overreact, the problem at hand is likely the latest cherry on top of a bad day, week, month, year, or even life. It’s not the core of the problem, it’s just the latest straw.

So, don’t take it personally. It’s not about you, your product/service, or your business. All you can do is do your best and handle the situation as best you can. Which brings us to our next point:

Do Not Escalate. Ever.

Since the issue is usually not really about the actual issue – or you, or your business – there is no sense in participating in whatever madness is going on. Do not escalate, ever.

We’ve come across a handful of people that pop up now and again. They are analytical, critical, and angry, and they are – get this – looking for an argument. They are actively searching for the opportunity to yell at someone, and we do our best to ensure it’s not us.

These types of customers are easy to spot, because they blow up over a small problem (or an imaginary one) and are often disarmed when we stay calm, logical, and helpful. We’ve come up with a magical power-sentence to disarm anyone that comes in too hot:

“I understand that you would like [their complaint/request], but unfortunately we cannot [logical reason why not], and [reiterate that that their demand will not be met]. We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your understanding.”

That is our de-escalation secret sauce, and it hasn’t failed us yet.

Offer a Baby-Compromise

In the harsh world of internet reviews, sometimes you have to give in a little – even if it’s unjustified and unfair. Keep in mind that you have to do the best for your business, and it’s pivotal to put your pride aside when you need to.

We like to offer baby-compromises. They’re often easier and more cost-effective than spending hours on the phone or stressing about the impending bad review. A baby-compromise is just that – a very, very small compromise, in which you give the disgruntled customer just enough for them to move on.

This could be refunding one night of someone’s stay, or comping one small item off of someone’s check. And no, they usually don’t deserve it – but you also don’t deserve to run yourself into the ground trying to reason with someone who is unreasonable.

Remember: all you can do is do your best, and that may occasionally mean giving in. More importantly, saying No gives you the time, space and energy to better serve your customer base. Saying No can free up the time you need to launch a new product, polish up your service, or dust off some marketing materials to grow – baby compromises & all.

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Thoughts

Entrepreneurial Thoughts: TAXES

I’ve encountered some scary situations in adult life, but none have been as daunting as filing corporate taxes for my small business. It’s our first official calendar year, and we handed over our beloved binder of taped and scanned receipts, expenses, and hand written notes to our CPA. We do all of our own accounting, but since we’ve never filed corporate year-end, we hired an affordable CPA willing to help guide a small business through this hurdle of terror.

As we walked away from his office, we found ourselves relieved. Little fear, no anxiety – just general curiosity about what we’d hear back from the IRS. We’d budgeted and prepared for this every day for the last year, and kept meticulous records of every penny we spent and earned. We knew this was coming, and we were as ready as we could be.

Ironically, many people in both our personal and professional lives had warned us about his moment. They told us that we would never be able to handle our own accounting; we weren’t disciplined, experienced, or possibly capable of running our own show. It was too difficult (it wasn’t), a CPA would be way too expensive (he wasn’t) and the business itself would be too confusing (it wasn’t).

2160c8ba6a06427711207386e42aeb10We had people we both respected and trusted tell us firmly, even aggressively, that we’d never make it out alive. Yet, here we are – moving along into the next year with year-end taxes being a small financial and clerical blip on the radar. I wasn’t sure if I felt lied to, or misguided. Why had people discouraged us so vehemently?

I realized that when you have an idea or new business, you have to be very careful who you listen to. We’ve always been open to advice – in fact, we still are – but this journey has taught me that people can be very defensive of the path they’ve chosen. When they’ve spent 15 years climbing the corporate ladder and you decide to deviate from the status quo and build a set of stairs, a few feathers can easily be ruffled.

Keep in mind that how people meet your idea or new business says more about them than it does about you. Maybe they are terrified of accounting and taxes, and that has deterred them from starting their own business. Or they’ve even had a bad (or terrible) experience with a CPA or the IRS, and are dutifully passing that information on to you to help you escape a similar fate. Or, they might be upset that you’ve chosen to reject the status quo when that status quo is their life – their past, their future, their choices.

Whether you’ve been building your own business for years or considering starting, there’s two things I’ve learned in this first year:

  1. anything is possible with enough research and phone calls
  2. No one – literally no one – really knows what they’re doing.

So, you might as well pursue your dreams – taxes and all.