Are Your Customers Mentally Ill?
An interesting conversation
I had an interesting conversation with one of my dear old friends the other day, he once rented a basement from a very difficult landlord. (He didn’t follow the path of running his own business.) The landlord basically was abusive to him, and they actually ended up having a mild phsyical altercation. (Incase you were wondering that’s a nice way of saying they had a fight.) The police were involved, but nothing much came of it.
10 years later his former landlord murdered his wife. My friend had lived in many locations over the years, and never had such problems like he did with this landlord.
I have a family member, who rented out apartments, they didn’t end up killing anybody (yet) over the years most of the tenants were very good reasonable people when you were a little selective about who to rent to. But every once and awhile you would get very difficult, awful and maybe even crazy tenants. It seemed like as you “played” the numbers, once and awhile a crazy person would show up.
Now the point of this tale is not to tell you to watch out for your landlord, or to be careful if your husband is a landlord, or to tell you not to invest in realstate, it can be quite lucatarive if done properly. But that is beyond the scope of this post. My goal is to make you think about something, that you might not have considered before. (Well until you read this title anyway.”
Are my customers mentally ill?
Not all of them, unless you work at a psychtric hospital. But according to this newspaper article, 1 in 5 or about 18-20% of the American population is mentally ill.
That means about 20% of your customers are going to be dealing with something. Depression, Bi polar, our old friend schizophrenia. Now I am going to assume a couple of them are faking it just for those sweet disability checks. As in the time of writing, (May 2020 during the COVID-19 Pandemic. I have been off work for a couple of months, on the governments dime and I have to say it is pretty sweet, I get why some people would want to be a bum now. .)
Now of course, that doesn’t mean that 20% of your customers are going to freak out. Unless you are one of those repo men (or repo women!) who tow cars when people miss their payment. If you are reaching that level of difficulty with your customers you are doing something wrong. But it does mean that a percentage of your customers are going to be crazy and awful and you are going to have nothing to do with it.
Sometimes you are just going to hit one of these customers on a bad day. I remember I use to fix computers when I was younger, one of my worst customers was extremely abusive to me on the phone, because he needed to get a new hard drive and it was going to take a few days to transfer all his data over. I had actually saved his data, but he was still quite angry at me, later he apologized, telling me that his wife had just die a few weeks before. I accepted his apology but I never did service for him again.
I have sympathy for the man. I love my wife as well, and id certainly love to take it out on random service people who are helping me if something happened to her. Just kidding, that guy was a real.. piece of work. This interaction inspired my famous quote.
You have to love your customers, But you don’t have to accept their behavior.— Rich E Cunningham
I just caught him on a bad day, and he was willing to spread it around. Maybe you are dealing with a customer who just decided to get off their medication? Maybe you get to give bad news about their car to a customer who is dealing with severe depression.
Such as the joys of business!
But what can you do about it?
There is very little you can do, to advoid the customer initialy. As there is almost no way to spot these customers before you start to communicate with them. But once you have indentifed the type of customer you are dealing with, you can adapt and handle them according.
A strong set of rules and procedures, that treat all customers fairly is a must in situations like this. The businesses I have been involved, the ones who had strong policies had better luck with these bad customers. The employees knew what to say, and do. The customer will still mad of course, but atleast they felt like they were being heard.
I discuss the importance of customer service policies in my future book. “Why your customers hate you.”
There are several things I recommend. I will share some of them for you.
1. have dedicated staff for dealing with customer issues.
Not every employee is capable of dealing effectively with a difficult customer. One of the places I worked, we had a young man with anger problems on staff. If a customer complained to him about something, he would get very angry and talk about how he wanted to “just punch the customer in the mouth.”
Hey we all felt that way! Don’t get me wrong. If you could do such a thing, people would be a lot nicer in retail. I certainly wouldn’t be lipping off to some teenager at Walmart about pickles! (Note: that probably didn’t happen, and if it did its just a lesson about how they should respect the price of pickles on a flyer!”
Needless to say, although this young man was quite good at his job. He was not often assigned a customer service duty. I have worked with other people, for instance a former radio personality, who could basically charm the pants off most of the customers. By the end of the conversation, the customer was thanking him! It must have had something with that deep rich voice of his. Opposed to my droning monotone.
Do you have people in your business or organization that are just naturally “better” at dealing with difficult customers? Think about it, you probably do. Unfortnately if you are one of the higher ups it is probably you.
2. Where is the boss again?
We had a local business, making our business much more difficult then it had to be. I wont get into details, but some of the businesses staff were slandering our business to customers, possibly because of a lack of understanding about the services we offer, or maybe a personal grudge. This needed to stop.
Certainly a quick phone call to their boss would remedy things correct? I certainly don’t want my employees making things hard for other local businesses and I would put a stop to it very quickly.
The only problem was, the boss was impossible to get in contact with, phone calls were never replied to, lost in a maze of staff. Friendly letters and cease and later cease and desist orders were never read and most likely never opened.
Later on, due to a fluke chance of fate and use having a virtual monopoly on the products we sell locally. We ended up being able to bill them for several services. We charged them full price, with no discounts although other years we had given out discounts to people in that industry. We finally got a response. “The boss was annoyed he had to pay us that money.”
But he did. Eventually the employees moved on to something else, we havn’t heard about them slandering us of late.
Well that was a long winded tale, but what is the lesson you might ask?
In this example, my business and I were the bad customers! That’s right. I wanted to complain and cause trouble for him and tell him what his employees should and shouldn’t be doing!
In a master stroke, the boss managed to avoid me for so long, I eventually just gave up. Yes I hate him, yes I would never use their business again. But if his sole goal was peace of mind, he was successful. I don’t recommend this method for most people or most situations. But you might have a difficult, so annoying, so difficult that hiding from them might be your only option and it’s a valid one.
3. Have them put it on paper.
This might be some of the best business advice you ever get. I can’t believe I am giving this away for free. If you have customers write down what their problem is, atleast 50% of your angry customer interactions are going to go better. Even better, you have legal evidence about what your customers issue actually is, incase they sue you.
customers always complain, and want things and don’t like things. But very rarely will they get around to actually to writing down what their issues are. It’s more fun to just ran and rave about things. Trust me, what do you think this blog is all about?
Remember how your nanna or someone with emotional control told you about how you should write a letter to somebody, but not send it? Maybe you even tried it and found out it did make you feel better. Well this kind of works the same way. Except then instead of destroying the letter which would be ideal. They just hand it to you and expect you to read it. But generally the customer is less awful after they wrote their letter.
It is also important for this tactic, that you get the customer to LEAVE after they wrote the letter. Let them know you will send it to the appropriate person, even if that happens to be you. You want to give it a bit of time for everyone to calm down. I have had a few customers who wanted to stick around and continue to argue after the letter. In which one of my favorite phases is used. “that’s all we can do right now.” just keep saying that over and over and over. After 20 times or so, they usually get the hint. (but not always)
4. Just give them their money back.
This one pisses me off just writing this little blurb about it. So I wont discuss it in deal. (Its my blog and I’m the only one who reads it anyway so I can do what I want ok?!) I can feel my anger building up just writing this one.
But sometimes you just have to give them those awful customers their money back and hope that they go away. It usually works. I recommend banning them officially or unofficially afterwards from future dealings with the business. Have them sign something.
As you can see, there are many tactics to deal with crazy customers, but you should always be careful when dealing with an actual crazy customer.
Have you dealt with a mentally ill customer? How did your business handle it? what was the result? I would love to know, if you want to swap a few battle stories like old veterans at the legion, comment below and let me know.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2020 Rich E Cunningham