|Customers I don't want to have anything to do with|
If I receive 10 phone calls before someone decides to place an order. Phone calls where they keep telling me they are on the budget and they need to make sure they are getting the best deal possible. After many phone calls like that I simply don't want their business anymore. How can I tell them that nicely? I know from experience that these kind of customers are just pain in the neck. And they will keep calling you after receiving order with million of other questions, that have not much to do with product itself. Finally you will get to the point where they say : "I am not fully satisfied with purchase. How can I return it?" and than they will post bed opinions about your site on some other forums or even contact BBB. Even if you give them money back.
You just waisted hours on the phone being unavailable to other customers that could call you, waisted time and money to ship product. And your nerves. Is there any polite method to tell the people to go away somewhere else before they place an order?
I sincerely apologize, but it seems that our services/product/etc is just not a good match for your needs, and I'm afraid you would not be satisfied with it. Have you checked out *insert competitor here*?
Your probably not being clear or formal enough in your language.
For example, if they ask about discounts you explain how good the product is, rather then saying sorry, no discounts. Many people can smell if you want to compromise and will keep pushing. Or if they talk about problems you address them when it has nothing to do with the purchase. Aunt May does not like brown etc.
Voice tone is also very important. When I tell people no discounts they don't call back, they run.
"Oh, sorry- I see that we just shipped the last widget that you wanted to order. We are all out now. I suggest you try [competitor that I don't like]. They may still have some left."
You make an excellent point, but every business has these people. Some of us even have them in our families!...We try to become better at reading early signs...and go for a similar reply as LifeinAsia.
Could you use caller ID to identify them and just not answer the phone after the # attempt?
I do that. Through being stupidly overly helpful, I have attracted some people who want to learn how to run an online business from me, hopefully selling identical products. They buy things, but nowhere near enough to make up for all the time I waste. So when I see them calling, I don't pick up or return their messages.
"This is our product offer. Unless you intend to order the item in wholesale bulk quantities of 10,000 or more this is our single unit price. We value your patronage, but we do not offer discounts."
As for returns you either have a return policy AND RESTOCKING FEE or you do not. Make that clear on line and during phone orders.
If, after a bad experience, they want to buy something else you say: "I'm sorry, sir/madam, we've been unable to satisfy you in the past and do not wish to repeat the experience. I'm sure you can find a similar product elsewhere." Then hang up the phone. Don't keep talking!
It's a delicate thing... I've ignored people, then had them get on forums and tell everybody I ignored them. I typically try to cleverly give people info that I know they won't want to hear. It's fairly easy to do with our stuff, because we make things that are technical and performance oriented. I know what people want and what turns them off. So when I know where a person is headed, I just start telling them answers that will get them there faster than they would on their own... Basically, I make the product look bad, or too expensive. I suppose that could blow up in my face, but I do it in such a subtle way, that there isn't much they can say about it... I try and focus on their particular need, so it can't be generalized. But then you have the people that won't listen no matter what, and even though your little voice is screaming that they're not going to be happy with it... No matter what you tell them, they still want it. Not too much you can do about those. In my thinking... If you in any way dismiss a person, they are probably going to take that as a personal attack. And that's when you get them messing with you. Getting them to come to a conclusion on their own is always better I think. Our return policy is pretty harsh also... If you use it, it's yours. End of story. Simply setting up the item is going to make it look used, so there's no way we are taking that back and taking the hit. I use to think that was too harsh, then I started noticing how much pain a lot of stores put you through now days for returns... Stores that are 100 times bigger than us. And I figure if they refuse returns on stuff, why shouldn't I.
But I'm amazed people have the nerve to ask for help to be a competitor. I haven't had that happen yet. Though, I think I probably worried about that the first few years. Now, not so much, because when I think about how much work and effort it has taken just to get this far, I have to think there's not many people that would last.
My products are pretty expensive where average purchase is about 800USD, so I understand that people want to find out everything before purchase, but than you have those people that instead of simply reading about the product on the website firs and call you with questions, they rather call you and hear everything from you.
Also I know how to turn them down making my product look like something they don't need or want. The problem is with those extreme kind of customers that even when you tell them that product does not have features they ask for, they will still eventually buy it. Than they would call you back after receiving product to complain. Those are the people dpd1 was telling about. I have clear return policy including re-stocking fee, but I know that considering possible chargeback, I will have to adjust my policy to customer's needs.
Don't forget to take every telephone call you receive as an opportunity to improve your website. In the early days of running my µISV I often made improvements to the website as a result of what I had been asked on the phone. After each call I asked myself why that person hadn't been able to find the answer to their question on my website - and made changes if I felt it was justified.
It's now at the stage where if somebody actually calls pre-sale, they are almost certainly not in the market for my products - however there will always be people who just want to know that there is somebody on the end of the phone before they part with their hard earned, which is understandable.
My opinion is to setup information pages explaining the various conditions for shipping, payment, about us, contact forms etc, it helps you to reference the information to customers and minimize the support overhead.
Another thing you could do is to setup something like a helpdesk and online chat. It is faster to address emails/messages than direct calls and you can use templates for common issues.
Along the lines of this subject... I just added a bunch of info a week or so ago regarding the accessories needed to make some of our products work. Hard to explain, but it's the kind of stuff where you need other things that are a totally different deal. Many people have a hard time figuring it all out. So I took advantage of the slowdown and spent a whole day writing a FAQ about it. I tried to think of everything I could imagine, so hopefully people wouldn't keep asking the same stuff and it would save me some grief. I also put links to the FAQ for each product that needs the extra stuff. Then a few days ago I also added options to even include a few accessories right with a couple products. So bottom line... way more info and options to make things easier. Supposedly. So in the last week I've gotten more questions about accessories and options than I ever did before. Plus now they're asking questions about the new accessories I made available too. One guy today... It was like he literally was asking every single exact same question that was on the FAQ. I'm like... Come on! Sometimes you just can't win.
99% of people are great...the other 1%....well, you know.
The BEST thing you can do is send those people to your competitors.
And I learned about 20 years ago that the people who waste your time beating you to death on price will NEVER be satisfied, and are always the ones that cause problems after they become your customer.
You don't need them...
Well, we have this very problem at our B&M -- we have a counter sales/will-call pick-up desk. Our account holders (we're a wholesaler and we do extend credit to many of customers) are almost never the problem as they know what we do well and how to utilize our services properly...and they're in our buildings a few times a week and are on a first name basis with their salesmen. That sort of deal.
Anywho, we are open to the public as well, so we get plenty of people who look us up in the phone book and waltz in with some 50 year old part from a manufacturer that went defunct 20 years ago...and DEMAND wholesale price on a special order item that may take an hour of research to even find a potential replacement. I mean, these are parts which not even the engineer who designed it would be able to tell you whether it will work until he's tried it.
Well, after a few near-fights between our staff and 'customers' we instituted a Technical Service Charge and posted a nice big sign. Essentially, if you want to sit at our counter and ask us questions, make us look up parts, contact manufacturers, create special orders, etc., you're going to pay us $15 for every 30 minutes of work which go into researching the answers (we won't even talk to them until they hand over a credit card)...on top of paying MSRP for any item ordered. Those 'customers' who want to come in and argue and waste our time now take one look at the sign and walk right out the door again. Bottom line, if they're too cheap to be good customers, tell them you're going to charge them for wasting your time and they'll happily go somewhere else and waste their time. So far, in 2009, we have had zero Technical Service Charges in 27 B&M locations and no incidents between the sales staff and customers. Must be working!
HugeNerd, that's brilliant.
Radeckd - I understand your frustration, I am often in a similar situation. But since you've done the first major steps getting the relationship off the ground, is it not pointless to throw it away?! I would rather waste my time than pass my business to someone else or throw it away.
Thanks rise2it and jackgordon!
rise2it is absolutely right. 1% of the customers cause 99% of the trouble and are loss makers when the cost of servicing them is taken into account - you can do without them. If in future they go to a competitor, then that is a bonus for you.