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How to Deal with Difficult Jewelry Clients

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One of the challenging things about running a jewelry business especially when you are keeping your business lean, is that you have to wear many hats. In my business model, client relations aka customer service, has always been extremely important to me.

I am known for delivering great service!

It’s inevitable that even though you do what seems to be the right thing, you are on occassion going to have difficult clients that are hard to please. Robin likes to call them the squeaky wheels in your client base. In fact, I had a situation like this come up with a client last week so I felt compelled to write about it.

When I switched business models from my wholesale jewelry business to my custom jewelry business, I made it a priority to focus on working with my DREAM clients instead of just any clients. My selection process in choosing my clients depends on many factors and it usually isn’t based on who has the deepest pockets.

While having clients with big budgets is nice, it really comes down to a few questions for me:

  • “Can I make this person happy with the service I provide?”
  • “Do they VALUE the service I am offering?”
  • “Can I make this person happy within the budget they are working with?”
  • “Do I like working with them?”

The combination of these factors is how I go about my client selection process. I call it a client selection process because I’ve known all too well the disasters that happen when I have taken on a client who was not a good fit. You can think of selecting clients not only in terms of working one on one with individuals, but also with retail stores or other entities.

Over the years, I’ve developed a loyal following by delivering great service. Along the way, I’ve made a few mistakes too and here is what I’ve learned:

1. Seek First to Understand

Understanding where your client is coming from can mean the difference between resolving a situation with a difficult client or making it worse. Uneducated clients are usually the ones who bark the loudest and have the most issues.

By understanding their lens or point of view, you are taking the first step not only to providing great service but to keeping your clients happy. Sometimes it may just be as simple as a little schooling in your jewelry, your process or your policies.

2. Pause Before Responding

For those of us who are hypersensitive and like to deliver great service, we need this the most! Often times responding to a client when feeling emotionally charged is a terrible idea.

Your words may come across the wrong way and you end up looking defensive. Robin is often my filter when I need feedback in responding to a client because she can look at the situation objectively. In the end, it doesn’t matter who is “right” it’s how you come across and handle difficult situations that matters.

In Robin’s words: “Less is more!”

3. Explain Your Policies and Procedures Up Front

The key to making sure that there are no questions unanswered is to ensure you are explaining your policies and procedures up front. If you are selling off your website, this could be an FAQ page. If you sell direct to consumer, this could be a conversation followed up by an email. If you are wholesaling, you would want your policies stated on your purchase orders.

For good measure, send them a copy of what you spoke about in an email so that they have a hard file to refer back to. One trick is to create a template or swipe copy of your process so every time you need to review your process, it is easily done. Plus it is consistent.

Be as crystal clear as possible. It is a good idea to tell your clients what to expect so that you can manage their expectations. For example, some expectations might be frequency of contact, how the piece delivered, how long the design process takes, when the payment is due, etc.

4. Encourage Clients to Ask Questions

If they don’t understand something, encourage your clients to ask questions. Make it clear to them that everyone has different questions and often times the questions they have are not questions that other clients have. So if they have a question that are not covered, they should ask.

5. Remember You Can’t Make Everyone Happy

The fact of the matter is, that no matter what you do, you can’t make everyone happy. Certain people are probably never going to be 100% satisfied, it’s part of their nature. You may feel as though you delivered above and beyond the call of duty for a client, but in their eyes, it’s mediocre.

Let it go and move on to working with clients who value your services. Resisting the urge to please everyone can be really tough because nobody really wants to be disliked or feel like they did a poor job.

Marie Forleo posted a great video last week about clients who are a “PITA.” You should definitely check it out.

The key is to use difficult clients as a mirror and a tool to not only to improve your business, but to deliver fantastic customer service.

We want to hear from you:

  1. How have you handled difficult client situations in the past?
  2. Have you had any clients that regardless of how far you stretched, they just weren’t happy?
  3. How have you turned a frown upside down and flipped a difficult client into a lifelong fan?

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