Customer in denial

Mark Samson of Melbourne, Australia wrote in asking about how to deal with customers who are “in denial.”  It’s a recurring challenge that many sales and service providers face.  The iconic (and sometimes comical) example of this is with customers in retail clothing stores who are positive that they’re two or more sizes smaller than they really are.  The health care field faces particular challenges, ranging from patients who can’t just bring themselves to admit they need hearing aids or bifocals, to people who refuse examinations or checkups because they don’t want to risk learning the bad news.

Dealing with the customer in denial can be quite awkward.  Do you just let him (her) make his own decision and absolve yourself from responsibility, or do you take a firm stand?  If you take a firm stand, you risk offending the customer.  If you take no action at all, you risk creating a dissatisfied customer – or worse.

Here’s What To Do

With customers in denial, you want to be as persuasive as you can, without being perceived as pushy or insensitive.   To persuade them to do the right things, you need to identify their hot buttons – negative and positive.  Why, for example, does someone not want to try on a dress that’s two sizes larger than she thinks she is?  Because she’s concerned about her image.  Why does someone not want to have a checkup?  Because he’s afraid.  The most effective approach for dealing with these people, then, is to address these hot buttons.

So, for example you might say: “I know this is a different size than you’re used to.  What I think you will appreciate is that, because it will fit properly, ultimately it will make you look slimmer.”

Or, for the person afraid of a check-up, you might say, “I know that this isn’t a comfortable thing to think about, but if there is something wrong, our odds of fixing it are much better if we catch it early.”

The better you can understand why your customer is in denial, the better you’ll be able to deal with him.

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