Stephen Venuti On How to Handle The Ridiculous Customer

“The customer is always right” … right?

Well, what happens when your customer is stone cold, Jack-Nicholson-in-the-sanitarium CRAZY? I wrote last week about when customers are difficult, but this is a whole different animal.

I’ll address it in a moment, but before I do, a couple of quick tax notes for you.

There are a few things that may matter to you for BEFORE October 15th that you might consider:

1) Open and contribute to a SEP retirement plan if you are self-employed and got an extension. This may not apply directly to YOU, but if it does, you should consider it. Contributions to these self-employed retirement plans are above the linedeductions, which means that they directly reduce your tax burden and are very smart vehicles.

2) Re-characterize a Roth IRA conversion? It may have seemed smart last year to convert your traditional IRA to a Roth, but with the way the stock market has been acting recently … perhaps now not so much. You have until Oct. 15th to “undo” this move. This makes sense for some folks, when and if the retirement account lost value since the change. So not only is the Roth worth less (because it lost value), but you owe tax on the converted amount. This reality can erase the reason for the original conversion to Roth.

Let us know if you need help with either of these propositions.

Now, about those crazy clients: fortunately, we don’t see a lot of this in the operation of a tax and accounting business, but sometimes … well, it’s amazing how much some people want to abuse your time and expertise. I’ll leave that one there.

This hasn’t been a recent problem (thank heavens!), but what DO you do when your client or customer goes well beyond the bounds of reasonable disturbance?

Here’s a thought…

Stephen Venuti On How to Handle The Ridiculous Customer
“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.” – Moliere

Last week, I wrote about handling upset customers, and I laid out a simple four-step method:

1) Hear the customer and don’t interrupt.
2) Mirror back (empathize) with something like
: “I can understand why you’re upset. I would be upset too.” Or, “I’m really sorry that happened to you.”
3) Ask: “What can I do to make this right?”
4) Resolve – Unless the request is absolutely ridiculous, DO IT!

But since I wrote it, I thought about — what happens if the customer is completely ridiculous?

Well, as the owner or general manager of the business you’ll need to decide just how much empowerment you’ll give your staff to resolve an issue.

Let’s assume you have 3 levels of personnel in your business — front line, manager, and you. You might give the front line person the authority to give a $100 worth of satisfaction (credit, whatever) when the customer isn’t ridiculous — and up to a $50 credit if the request is ridiculous.

You might then give the manager the authority to give up to a $300 credit even if the customer is ridiculous — and a $1,000 credit otherwise.

Notice that the ridiculous requests still get handled, just not as generously.

Credits over this amount may need your personal approval. You’ll need to determine where these levels are and put them in writing. But just as important as where the levels are, is how everyone is trained to handle the ridiculous customer.

If your people think the client is being ridiculous, or the amount is more than they are comfortable with, they should be trained to pleasantly stall for time and refer it to you later with something like, “I’m sorry, I’ll need to talk with my supervisor about this. I’m sure you’ll be hearing back before noon tomorrow. And if we can’t, I’ll be sure to call you.” Then be absolutely certain to get back to the client before your associate said you would.

When you have a PLAN in place, you can handle just about anything in your business. No matter how crazy.

Feel very free to share this article with a Newtown Square, PA business associate or client you know who could benefit from our assistance — or simply send them our way? While these particular articles usually relate to business strategy, as you know, we specialize in tax preparation and planning for Newtown Square, PAfamilies and business owners. And we always make room for referrals from trusted sources like you.

Warmly (and until next week),

Stephen Venuti

Stephen J. Venuti, CPA, MST, LLC

Stephen Venuti On How to Handle The Ridiculous Customer