How to Stay Professional - Even when you don’t want to.
Here are 6 tips to help you keep your cool when faced with “that” customer. You know, the rude, insulting, or ignorant one.
You have a small business, you have your name and logo, you picked out which of your handcrafted products to sell and you are on your way! Then all of a sudden, out of the blue, you are faced with a situation that you hadn’t anticipated — “that” customer. The very rude customer at your Saturday Farmer’s Market or the person who made an overly critical comment on your Facebook page. How do you keep your cool and your professionalism when someone is insulting or attacking what you have worked so hard to create?
The answer is to follow these tips to maintain your professionalism — even when you don’t want to:
1. Don’t take it personally!
Whatever it is, don’t take it personally. This can be a tough one. You put a lot of thought and care into what you create and it hurts when those creations are insulted. It also hurts when you are treated badly by a customer; don’t they know how hard you work?
Here is the thing though, that rude person doesn’t care and most likely isn’t even upset about you or your products. Perhaps they are having a lousy day, or perhaps they just got some very bad news, or perhaps they are just always that rude to everyone. The bottom line is do NOT take it personally.
2. Don’t obsess
Don’t obsess about it or torment yourself. Once you get down the “don’t take it personally” part, now is the time to stop thinking about it late at night when you should be sleeping. “What’s wrong with me, my business, my products?” It is human nature to put more stock into that one bad review and ignore the dozens of good ones.
I am not saying you shouldn’t analyze that bad review or interaction with a customer to see if you can tighten up your products or procedures, just don’t OVER analyze it. If a majority of your interactions, transactions and reviews are positive, look at the trend and be comfortable with how you are doing.
3. Don’t go with your knee-jerk response
Skip knee-jerk response; it’s most likely wrong. Let’s face it, when we are confronted or insulted, we want to respond right then and there. “How dare this person or that insult me, my business, my products, I’m going to give them a what for and then some!” Don’t respond how you would like to by putting the person in their place — and certainly don’t do it in writing on social media.
Reactions like that just make you look bad and very unprofessional. Instead, take a breath, walk away and come back when your head is clearer. If you can’t walk away, because the person is standing in front of you in your shop or in your booth, then say something very polite and benign. It could be something like, “Thank you for your feedback, I will consider it.” Or, “I’m sorry I do not have what you are looking for, perhaps the other soapmaker at this show will have it.” Just keep it polite and keep it bland, not confrontational or provocative. (You might want to practice this in advance so you have it ready when the need arises.)
4. Don’t get angry
Keep in mind that you aren’t going to change this person’s mind or alter their actions by getting angry, telling them off or arguing the point. Lashing out or getting into an argument may feel good for a moment, but it will only escalate the situation. You aren’t going to change their mind about whatever it is that upset them in the first place; you may not ever know what set them off.
Feeling great for those few moments will be fleeting and short-lived once you are faced with a worse situation than when you started. You aren’t going to make them feel your pain or come around to your way of thinking by being rude back. So, resist the urge for that temporary satisfaction; stick to your principles and maintain your professionalism.
5. Kill it with humor
Humor won’t work in every situation, but it sure will help in some. If the person is standing right in front of you, crack a little joke and smile. You’d be surprised, sometimes that’s all it takes to turn a rude customer into one of your best customers. Remember, their rudeness may be that they are having a terrible day. Your comment may just be what is needed to diffuse the situation. Now I said “humor,” not “sarcasm”. Being sarcastic is likely going to make things worse, not better.
A little humor can also work for you. Sometimes you can dispel the aftereffects of a crappy customer interaction by making a joke about it to a friend or someone you trust. Tell them about the issue and have a good laugh about it. It can take the sting out of it so you can handle it with a more level head.
6. Take the high road
Lastly, remember that taking the high road keeps your business reputation intact. As hard as it sometimes is, taking the high road is the right way to go. Every. Single. Time. Keep the sarcasm, passive aggressive-ness, snark and bite out of all your communications, both in person and online. Stick to the facts, be polite, be accurate, and be professional at all times. Remember, reputations take forever to create and seconds to destroy. That’s especially true on social media where one unprofessional slip-up can haunt you for years.
I’m not going to candy-coat it, maintaining your professionalism all the time can be very difficult and it’s certainly not as much fun as putting that rude person in their place. You won’t be telling stories at parties about that time you showed such restraint. Just remember all of the care you put into your business and into your products. You owe it to all that hard work to take the high road. Keep your eyes on your reasons for being in business in the first place and protect it at all costs—even if that means biting your tongue. In the long run, you’ll be thankful you did.