How to Take Care of the Ridiculous Customer

Previously, I’ve talked about the L.E.A.R. method for helping upset customers.

L – Listen and don’t interrupt

E – Empathize with something like, “I can understand why you’re upset.  I would be upset too.”

A – Ask – What can I do to make you happy?

R – Resolve – Unless it’s ridiculous – do it

The question came back to me, “How should this empowered manager handle the ridiculous request?”

Here’s my reply.

As the owner or general manager of the business you’ll need to decide just how much empowerment you’ll give each person in your management structure.

Let’s assume you have 3 levels of personnel in your business.  Front Line, Manager, and You.  You may give the front line person the authority to give a $100 (or whatever) credit as long as the customer isn’t ridiculous – and up to a $50 credit if the customer is ridiculous.

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

And for credits over this, you may need to give personal approval.  You’ll need to determine where these levels are and put them in writing.  But as important as where the levels are, is how everyone is trained to handle the ridiculous customer.

In our company NO ONE is authorized to say NO to a client other than me – and I never have.  If our people think the client is ridiculous, or the amount is more than they are comfortable with, they are trained to pleasantly stall for time and refer it to me with something like, “I’m sorry, I’ll need to talk with Keith, the owner, about this. I’m sure he’ll be getting back to you beforenoon tomorrow.  And if he can’t I’ll be sure to call you. Can I get your phone number?” Then be absolutely certain to get back to the client before your associate said you would.

So the next question is, where do you draw the line?

Again that’s up to you.  My line is very, very high – as I said, I haven’t reached it yet.

In my advertising – especially to prospective clients, I love to talk about our “Make-You-Happy” Guarantee.

Here it is: “If we ever let you down we’ll ask, ‘What can I do to make you happy?’ In 34 years we’ve never refused a clients request to make it right.”

This is why no-one at TMS is authorized to say no to a client.  If a client ever asks for something so unreasonable that I’m willing to give up my guarantee statement in future advertising – I will make that decision – no one else!

So what about that customer that is unreasonable? Do you let them come back time after time to steal from you?  Here’s our plan for handling that situation.  We’ve only gone through the entire plan one time at TMS.

We find that customers are very seldom unreasonable. If someone is unreasonable, we do what they ask and then we put a code into the computer that says “we fulfilled client’s unreasonable request.”  Then, if the client is unreasonable again we do what they want – we Make Them Happy. And then I send them a letter telling them that we don’t seem to be able to give them the service they need and that we therefore won’t be able to sell to them any more.

With this I am still able to say “we have never refused a clients request to make it right” in our advertising. Again, in 25 years, I have only had to do this once.


Keith Lee is the creator of the “Don’t Let Your Business Ruin your Life – Yes, You Can Have It All, Make-You-Happy Management System.”  Keith developed the system in 1991 when he was burnt out from all of the stresses and time issues involved with running his business.   The system creates happy customers, happy employees, but most of all gives you back you life.  To get a FREE DVD of the  “Don’t Let Your Business Ruin your Life – Yes, You Can Have It All, Make-You-Happy Management System” call 800-426-5708.

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