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The Green Sheet Online Edition

July 23, 2007 • Issue 07:07:02


If the shoe fits, bear it

Rude people. They stand out like roaches at quick service restaurants. They scowl, drum their fingers on counters and want to know why their food is taking so long to materialize.

They double-park their cars in front of dry cleaners and markets, blocking traffic while they take care of their all-important erraands.

Sometimes, one of these ingrates even shows up in your mirror. Could it have been you who emitted those loud sighs while standing in a stalled line at the airport's rental car counter last week?

Or, was it you who ruined your customer service rep's day during a recent technical support call?

Admit it; you've been boorish at times. You aren't proud of it, but, like the rest of us, you are human.

So, what to do?

Beastly behavior blues

First, recognize you are only hurting yourself when you behave like a snotty heiress. Do you think that sighing in exasperation is going to make a salesclerk move any faster? Will getting snippy with a customer service rep speed your modem back to life?

When you demean someone, especially a person whose assistance you need, you almost guarantee that you will receive less than stellar service.

When you act insensitive, it usually makes people wish you would just disappear. Even when kindhearted people want to help you despite your impolite behavior, it won't happen if they fear you will berate them.

Cruelty rarely motivates people to do their best.

So, next time you feel the urge to deliver a devastating one-liner, take a breath.

Examine why you are upset. Is it because you're going to be late for a sales appointment, and you're worried that your prospect will write you off?

Is it because you won't have time to prepare for an important staff meeting, and you think you'll look incompetent?

Obnoxious behavior – on the part of those being served, as well as those providing service – has a common root: fear.

Fizzling fear factor

Occasionally, though, someone will respond to rudeness in such a way as to diffuse the situation. Instead of being fearful, a perceptive person will regard grumpiness and aggression with relaxed concern and make an effort to reach the heart of the person exhibiting poor behavior.

If you can learn to not only master your own behavior when your feathers are ruffled, but also effectively reach out to someone who is treating you brusquely, you will have found a way to boost your business.

Here's why: Some merchants and prospects call their ISOs just a little too often to complain about just a little too much. Sometimes ISOs refer to these merchants as high maintenance.

When the phone rings, and the number of a demanding client lights up your caller ID display, do you rush to pick up the phone? The likely answer is no.

If the odds are that you're going to get an earful of foul language or be forced to listen to a litany of complaints (many of which you have no control over) you are not going to want to help. But, that is all the more reason to do just that.

You might think you don't want that kind of business. But, really, can you afford to turn down any business? Should you throw money away just because the work involved is difficult or a little unpleasant?

As service providers, whether your merchants please you or annoy you, your job is to provide service.

Gold in the golden rule

If you have clients who behave like petulant diners or irate travelers, consider filling their needs an exercise in tolerance. You'll have to work a little harder, be a little more understanding and, sometimes, bite your tongue.

Just keep in mind the very real benefits to working with sullen merchants and persnickety prospects. First, the competition may be less, because most service providers don't want to deal with troublesome clients. Second, chances are a poor attitude is a manifestation of a personal or business upset. Perhaps a pesky merchant is under extreme stress due to declining profits.

The poor soul can't take it out on customers or employees, so you are the next in line.

If you sincerely offer a helping hand, problem customers just might relax, open up a bit and begin to regard you as a friend. If you treat these merchants with patience and kindness, you can build long-term relationships.

When they have driven everyone else away, they will see that you are in it for the long haul.

Once you've earned their trust, ask probing questions to pinpoint their concerns. Then, help find business solutions to address the underlying issues and thereby lessen stress and increase profits for you and your clients.

end of article

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