7 Tips for Working with Challenging Customers
By Melissa Viera
Working with customers in the professional pet care industry is a rollercoaster. On some days, a customer tells you how important you have been in their pet’s life, or surprises you with a card just to say thank you and you get tears in your eyes remembering that what you do is important.
On other days, you want to go home and hide after having customers show up late, argue with you about their matted pets, or rush you through a check–in. If you dream of having customers that are always polite and understanding, then you are going to leave work disappointed very often.
The difference between an offensive comment or a complaint from a customer and one from someone you know and love is that, if you do not know the customer well, you cannot tell if they are just having a bad day, and you do not know all of the wonderful things about them that would make you look past this one harsh moment.
When we know and care about someone, it is easy to look past it when they are having a bad day and they say something offensive. You know that they don’t mean it because you have come to appreciate every part of their unique personality.
Providing the perfect customer experience is easier said than done, especially when you are so passionate about what you do. At the end of the day, a pet caretaker has an unwritten agreement with the animal that they are going to do what is in the animal’s best interest, even if it creates an inconvenience to your customer. Your human customers may not always be understanding.
If you want to provide your customers with exceptional experiences and remain calm and not bothered when working with challenging customers, here are a few things you can do:
- Be up front about your boundaries and stick to them. If you do not make it clear that you have boundaries, then it is no fault of your customer’s for asking the same questions repeatedly or asking you to go the extra mile. Decide what your boundaries are and stick to them. You can have boundaries and your customers will understand.
- Take away the worry for nervous customers. Have you ever been worried about something and you tell a friend, thinking that sharing it will make you feel better, but it only makes it worse? That is because worrying alone is sometimes no different or worse than worrying with a friend. If instead of getting stressed out with you, your friend confidently tells you that they are going to take care of it for you, you are going to feel so much better! If your customers have concerns, hear them out and take away their worry. Your customer has to see that you fully understand their concern and that you are going to take extra precautions and, in a way, worry about it for them, in order for them to be worry–free.
- Be kind and honest. Even when it seems impossible, do your best to be kind. Being kind does not mean you must be weak or dishonest. It means that you will show that you respect and care for others. You should always be honest, even if it is not what your customer wants to hear. Who doesn’t appreciate kindness and honesty? You can be kind and still self–confident. If you are finding it difficult to be kind to someone that is not being kind to you, try to remember that, like you, they are only human and they have bad days and imperfections.
- Wish them the best. Even after the worst of days, you can find a way to reflect and be grateful. When a customer gets you upset or angry, instead of feeding into those emotions, try doing the opposite. Sit down and write everything down that you like about that person. You might find more things about them that are admirable than you think. Then write all the good things you wish for that person and their pets. Wish them the best. This exercise can be very transformative.
- Be grateful for your best customers. If you want to avoid burnout, then you must constantly remind yourself of the things that make you feel good, even when you are having a tough day or a tough week. Think about the customers that have been with you for years and the ones that proudly tell all their friends about you. Remember how grateful you are for the customers that support you.
- Let go and move on. Things happen. Good things happen and bad things happen. Sometimes we need to spend less time mentally categorizing things into groups of good and bad and just let go and move on.
- Learn to say “no”. You owe it to yourself to stand up for what you believe in and do what is right for you. If you must say “no” to a customer because it is the right thing, then do it. Even if you risk a bad review or losing a customer. Always be honest with yourself and the animals. Do what is right.
Don’t let a bad day or a difficult customer make you feel defeated. Everyone has bad days. If you can handle difficult customers and move on when you are feeling upset, you are going to leave work with less weighing on you. Remember to be grateful and kind to others—even when they are a challenge—and you might just find yourself smiling at and earning the trust of your most challenging customer.