(and neither are we, of course)
Although we strive to always be friendly and helpful, we’re more likely to go the extra mile for “Betties” than “Karens”. So please be nice.
Let me start by saying that my staff has never given me any reason to doubt their integrity. So as the business owner, I need to know immediately if a client believes that someone from our company has done anything illegal, unethical or truly inappropriate. I take serious accusations very seriously, and I’ll want to investigate things in detail. Otherwise, I’ll assume that all problems are simply a matter of unfortunate happenstance, mistakes or miscommunications that can be worked out in a fair and civil manner.
Our clients seem to appreciate the familial atmosphere, personal attention and warm customer service that our small business offers. So, I’m always surprised when a client suddenly switches to treating us like a faceless, heartless corporate monster as soon as there’s a problem. Strange, how they abruptly lose their humanity and take on a combative attitude.
Oftentimes a predicament is not our fault, and it’s not fair to blame us for things that are beyond our control. But sometimes we mess up. In those cases, it’s only fair to expect us to fix it, and our clients can rest assured that we’ll do what it takes to make things right. All we can do at that point, is move forward to bring resolution. We are nice people, so please don’t whip us mercilessly while we scramble to rectify whatever we did wrong.
A frustrated client once chuckled with a smirk, “You guys are firm, but fair”. I suppose that’s true. We value integrity and fairness, and we’ll always follow through with what we agreed to do. All we ask, is that our clients offer us the same courtesy. At our discretion, we often go over and beyond what’s legally and ethically required of us. But don’t mistake our kindness and attentiveness for weakness and subservience then try to bully us with unrealistic expectations. At the end of the day, we reserve the right to stick to our tried and true, lawyer-approved policy (as would most other respectable companies), no matter what threats and attacks ensue.
If you have any questions or concerns about our policy and protocol, please discuss them with us beforehand to see if we can negotiate some changes to accommodate your special requests, and note them on the purchase agreement. Otherwise, we ask that that our clients please accept the way we do business, honour their contract, and abide by our policy and protocol.
Clients who freak out aren’t “bad people” per se – it’s just that they’re feeling vulnerable, and losing their composure is an instinctual response under duress. When animals feel threatened or powerless, they thump their chest, make loud sounds, bare their teeth, and their claws come out. It’s a natural, primal reaction to stress. I’ve observed that when people feel out of control, they often greatly exaggerate the problem and make unsubstantiated accusations and inaccurate claims to justify their refusal to cooperate harmoniously. They make arbitrary demands and threaten severe consequences if they are not met, in an attempt to take back control. Although the psychology behind this behaviour is explainable, it’s not cool, and it only makes matters worse.
We’re good people, and we don’t pander to clients who make a scene, are abusive to our staff, violate their agreement, ignore company protocol, make inaccurate or unsubstantiated accusations, or threaten to ruin us online. Having served as a chaplain in prison with some very tough and volatile characters, I’m not easily intimidated, and if someone accuses, insults and yells and threatens, it doesn’t improve their chances of getting what they want. I’m an honourable and fair man, but I won’t reward threats or allow bullying.
I’ve learned that trying to converse with a very angry person can result in things escalating instead of calming things down. If someone believes they have good reason to be very upset with the company or its staff, I ask them to please put everything in writing via email, and reassure them that I’ll respond once I’ve had a chance to carefully review the matter. Sometimes this makes them even angrier at the time because they want immediate action, and they don’t feel like writing things down. But I found it’s best to insist on putting things in writing, because it tends to clear their mind, and keeps things more accurate, civil, and pragmatic.