Every now and then you can bump into a customer who is absolutely fixated on getting something that they either can’t or shouldn’t have. They want it in blue, but it doesn’t come in blue. They want three smaller shipments, even though you’ve explained that one larger shipment will be faster and more cost effective. They seem to understand, yet they keep coming back to it over and over again like a politician to your wallet.
One option is to grab them by the ears, shake their heads and say, “You’re not paying attention!” (For the record, that is a Bad Option…). Another is to just keep repeating yourself, but adding “like I told you before…” to it. This is less bad than the previous option, but only by a little bit. You might as well just call them “idiot” to their faces. (Don’t do that either).
The better solution is turning to the word “Why.”
A lot of times, a fixated customer appears unreasonable because there are needs or situations that we don’t fully understand. If we take the time to understand those needs and situations a little better, however, we can often provide alternative solutions that will make everyone happy. For example:
You: “If you don’t mind my asking, why are you looking for this product in blue?”
Customer: “We’ve bought them before – in red and blue – and the red ones always break. So I want the blue ones.”
You: “Ahh – I understand! The black ones we have now are exactly the same as the blue ones. We just changed the color this year.”
You: “Just so I understand, why do you prefer three separate shipments?”
Customer: “Our warehouse team isn’t big enough to process that many units at once.”
You: “Got it. Would it help if, instead of packaging the units boxes of 12, we put them in boxes of 36? That might simplify the processing time…
While it is true that you sometimes have no choice but to say “no” to a customer (nicely) , it’s worth a few moments to see if you can find a pathway to “yes.”
“Listen to how often a four-year-old asks the question “why.” Now you understand how they manage to learn so quickly.”