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Challenging Customers

Posted by on in Customer Service
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All customers might have been created equal, but some of them were dropped on their heads when they were very young.  The following represent a few customer types with the more recognisable and common traits that you will have to deal with.  Being able to recognise these traits is really the first step to successfully dealing with these challenging customers.

The Know It All:  The Know-It-Alls are the customers who try to make themselves feel important by making everyone around them feel inadequate or stupid.  Don't be tempted to play one-upmanship with these people or you'll never sell them anything.  The best approach is to be as professional as possible and give them as many compliments as you can.  Doing so makes them feel good about themselves, and then they might buy something.

The Whiner:  Whiners are eternal pessimists.  They want the people around them to just as miserable as they are.  Misery loves company.  The best way to deal with whiners is to first offer a compliment and then try the 3F approach.  ' I know how you FEEL about buying that item, I FELT the same way when I had to make a decision, but I FOUND after I bought it that I felt so much better.

The Number Nerd:  Number nerds are comparison shoppers.  Take advantage of their information.  Ask them what they know about other products (and retailers), and they'll gladly share it with you.  Be expressing some interest, you can win them over.  Offer these customers statistics, graphs, charts, manuals or other statistical information to convince them to buy from you.  Make sure that you have your most analytical staff member wait on them.  It will be like two Martians talking.

The Wishy-Washy:  Wishy-washy people can't make up their minds or are afraid to make decisions.  They may ask questions like, "What if my husband doesn't like it?  Will I get my money back?" or they may say, "I'll have to sleep on it."   Or they may ask what everyone else does.  The best way to sell to these customers is to make the decision for them. Tell them, "This is what we are going to do..."  As strange as it may sound, they'll appreciate you for this approach.  You'll see the relief come over them once they get past the decision process.

The Possessor:  Do you know someone who loves to say, "He's MY Accountant" or "That's MY hairdresser" or "I bought it from MY favourite gift shop?"   Once you initially win these customer over, they'll think they own you.  This can be advantageous to your business because they'll refer lots of other people to your store.  Try to think of it as free advertising.
The best approach is to involve them in decisions.  Ask them what they think about different pieces of merchandise.  You can even ask them whether they know someone who might like something in your store.  They're likely to drag someone in to buy it.  Ask them whether they think you have the right merchandise.  Ask them to look around to see whether you should be carrying lines that they've seen in other store.  These people can provide you with great information.  Do everything you can to hold onto them.

The Butterfly:  Psychologists refer to this personality type as the socialiser.  What you sell is secondary to the relationship the "butterfly" has with you.  Many times socialisers don't come into the store to buy;  they just stop by to say hello.  They love parties, events or anything exciting that you do in the store.  Be sure to keep your butterflies informed of what is happening at the store.  Send them newsy newsletters and call them when merchandise you're sure they'll like comes in.  If you ever need someone to give you a testimonial, use these customers because they'll overflow with praise.

I hope this helps.  Do you recognise some of your best known customers here?


Shopping should be a pleasure for everyone involved - customers, staff and business owners - never a chore.  I spend my time working with retail business owners - helping them love their businesses back to life!  This blog is my thoughts, ideas, tips and  musings on what I find...