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How to deal with five types of customer who can drive a founder crazy
Customer service is instrumental in growing a company, especially for young start-ups.
Fiona Adler, founder of online review site WOMO, told StartupSmart innovative start-ups can face the biggest challenges in closing sales and keeping their customers happy.
“If the start-up is a brand new concept, there is a lot more indecision and perhaps also people who don’t really understand what’s being offered, which means the business owners need to do a lot of education,” Adler says.
Work closely with the indecisive customer
Customers who show interest but aren’t motivated are good ones to focus on if you have limited time. According to Adler, they need to be talked the whole way through the process.
“This customer needs to be led to a decision and handheld the whole way. You will have to be the leader in this relationship, but if you can earn their trust, they can be very valuable,” Adler says.
“Talk them through their decision-making process and find out if there were similar decisions they made in the past that either worked out well, or that they now regret. Be compassionate and remind them what the lack of making a decision can cost them. Demonstrate your trustworthiness with credentials, examples of past work, or customer reviews.”
Learn to spot the difference between an indecisive customer and a tyre kicker
When you’re dealing with a customer who keeps returning with questions or concerns, you need to assess if it’s because they’re indecisive or if it’s another issue.
“Time spent with these individuals is like throwing money (your time) away. Be ready with solid probing questions, especially early in the process, to help you qualify if they will be an actual buyer. This will help weed out the time-waster before you spend hours on follow up and research,” Adler says.
Pick your moment and be engaging to close a sale with the distracted customer
Adler says the distracting customer can be spotted easily, their smart-phone in hand and a million things to do. The key to closing these sales is realising you’re competing with everything from their family to Twitter for attention.
“Speak to them about the various positive features of the products or service, so that they develop a sense of interest and urgency. Strike up a conversation with them, but make sure that you listen to what they actually want – and don’t waste their time. If you can quickly grasp their needs, queries, aspirations and any concerns about what you offer, you can successfully service them – despite having only part of their attention,” Adler says.
Handling the know-it-all customer
While an informed customer can be great, how they wield that information can create challenges for founders, especially if they’ve misunderstood your offering or their problem.
“Rather than spending time answering questions, ask questions. The big problem with this customer is that they’re not very receptive to what you might have to say. In fact, often what they’re looking for is your respect – so give it to them,” Adler says. “Use this rapport and ego-booster to introduce new ideas to them and convince them about your product or service.”
Give grumpy customers the time to change their mind
Any business will have its share of customers who recognise you offer a solution but may be already pessimistic about your capacity to help.
“The first thing to remember is to stay calm and listen to their concerns. Ask questions so they know that you are listening and are genuinely focused on solving their problem,” Adler says.
“Make the decision process easy for them by highlighting the benefits of the product or service. At the same time, give them plenty of time and space to express themselves and don’t make them feel pressured into doing something.”