Published November 6, 2018 | Updated April 21, 2021

You’ve heard the adage that the “customer is always right.” And the thing is, sometimes they’re not. Office equipment buyers will sometimes insist they provided you documentation they didn’t. They will say their invoice is wrong when it isn’t, or they’ll assert no one explained how the lease was going to work. Even though they’re not always right, they are the ones paying the bills, so you’re stuck having to manage their ‘perceptions.’

Here are five big tips for handling the not-so-easy customer (taken in part from Rhett Power, a business consultant and coach):
  1. Listen. Sometimes you have to let them air it all out, and that can be hard, especially when they aren’t stating the facts accurately. But you can’t diffuse the situation unless you hear the entire argument. As challenging as it may be – listen thoroughly.
  2. Empathize. Feel their pain. “I understand that you feel as though [then fill in the blank with the summary of the issues you just listened intently to]. I understand and want to help.” Before you say anything else, you will likely feel a calming of the entire situation at this point.
  3. Accept. Believe them. Even if what they are saying is wrong, believe that they believe in their argument. If they feel you are questioning their integrity, they may push back even more. But if they think you believe in their sincerity, the tension will begin to ease. When they are most upset, they often bring up other issues unrelated to the real issue. By showing some sincerity and acceptance, you might get to the real problem quicker.
  4. Respect. Showing signs of defensiveness or frustration like not looking them in the eye or interrupting them leaves them with the experience that you’re not showing them any respect. In a remote environment, sighing heavily or other audible sounds indicate the same. And those impulses can be especially hard to control but be patient. You’re tough; you can handle interactions like these.
  5. Negotiate. If you successfully employ listening, empathizing, accepting, and respecting, you will pave the way for negotiating. You will have put the problematic person at ease. You will have helped him believe you are in his corner. He will be better prepared to drop his aggression and enter into negotiations, believing that you will treat them with fairness, honesty, and integrity. Finally, always try to resolve a customer’s issue with one conversation. The quicker the issue is resolved, the better the customer will feel about the interaction.

There are dozens of things that could potentially go wrong with an office equipment sale. Invoicing, installation problems, service problems, or they could just be having a terrible day. But by following a few simple steps, you might be able to diffuse even your most challenging situation. LEAF is here to take the complexity out of your life.