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Break It Up

How to deal when a customer doesn't like your rep

If a customer calls to grouse about one of your sales reps, what should you do? Assuming you're otherwise happy with this rep, Bette Price, author of True Leaders and president of The Price Group, an Addison, Texas, firm that specializes in leadership development issues, suggests some ways to finesse this sticky situation.

  • Listen Up. Price encourages sales managers to "sincerely convey that the customer's continued satisfaction is exceedingly important." Get details by asking the client what he or she thinks caused the situation. Neutral questioning will help you determine whether the relationship can be salvaged.

  • Reassign the account. If the customer simply will not work with the rep, don't push the issue. If you can, assign a rep whose work style better matches the customer's needs. If you have only one rep, you may need to take on the account.

  • Look to internal causes. If a rep is struggling with a customer, Price points out that he or she may need more training to understand how to recognize and adapt to behavior styles other than his or her own.

  • Cut the customer loose only as a last resort. Says Price, "Unless the customer is unrealistic to the point where it's evident that he or she will continue to be a problem, [it's not] in your best interest to fire the customer."

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This article was originally published in the April 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Break It Up.

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