I wish I could take the credit for all of the strategies I share in Winning at Work and in my books. But the truth is, I learn far more from the people around me than I could ever teach. Several years ago, when I was working in South Africa, I witnessed a virtual clinic on how to deal with a Know-It-All customer. It was a wonderful thing to watch, and I thought it would be worth sharing.
I was working with a prominent retailer, and happened to be in one of their stores when the Know-It-All customer came in. He was, to say the least, obnoxious. He went on and on about how much the store was ripping people off, that he used to be in the manufacturing business and knew what the real value of the goods were. He quoted facts, figures, gross margins and manufacturing costs. He was loud and persistent, and didn’t appear to have any point to his rant other than to impress upon everyone in the store how Very Clever he was.
The young salesman, Chris, handled the situation beautifully. Instead of becoming irritated or defensive as many of us would, he simply stood by the customer and listened intently, making strong eye contact, nodding his head and smiling. When the customer had finished his tirade, Chris gave him a broad smile and said, “Wow – you really know the business! Thank you. I really learned something today.” The customer beamed, and walked away feeling that he had accomplished something.
Ten minutes later the customer returned with a question, and a completely different attitude. He was warm, and in good humor – returning to the store to speak with his new friend. A new loyal customer from the ashes of a Customer from Hell. And a testament to the value of strong, active listening skills, patience, and a positive attitude.
[This is from the Archive Project – where we are attempting to get 10 years of Winning at Work on the web! Original publication date: 10 January, 2005]