The Difference Between Bad Customers and Difficult Customers


The Difference Between Bad Customers and Difficult Customers

A work colleague once said I should change my vocabulary and stop referring to some individuals as bad customers, and instead I should refer to these individuals as being difficult customers.

He felt that every customer was an opportunity for the business to learn and grow, regardless of the situation.

I totally understood his mindset of bad versus difficult, but after explaining my understanding of these two words, I was able to sway his thinking a little more my way. Now let’s see if I can do the same with you.

What Is Difficult?

Golf is a difficult game to play and even harder to master. Surfing and playing the guitar are also both very difficult, taking years to master, or to at least become proficient. However, all these activities have one thing in common; they are very rewarding once accomplished. There’s an end benefit.

To me, difficult simply means something is challenging and involves additional work, over and above what you would have normally expected, but in the end, all this additional work pays dividends, resulting in a benefit for you and everyone involved in the learning process.

A difficult customer can, therefore, be a great opportunity for you, your business and your team to learn new skills and to grow as individuals and as an organisation.

Another positive outcome is all future customers will benefit from your newfound skills.

Let’s Look At Bad

Bad, on the other hand, is simply bad. If an apple is bad, it’s bad, and you throw it away. If chicken is bad you discard it, otherwise it could kill you, so if a customer is bad, there may be very little you can do to change this, and if you try to consume them into the belly of your business, it may be very upsetting.

Don’t get me wrong, just because someone is a bad customer it doesn’t mean they are a bad person. This is not what I’m suggesting. Yes, some bad customers are simply rude individuals who need to be slapped, but what I’m suggesting in this article is bad just means they are not a good fit for your business.

Depending on the type of business you run, a bad customer can mean many things. For example, if your business runs on a strict appointment schedule, then a customer, client or patient, constantly arriving late is really bad for your business and this problem needs to be addressed quickly, even though they may be the nicest person.

Fix The Problem

However, if you think you can fix the problem, you’re not really dealing with a bad customer, you’re dealing with a difficult customer, because you now have an opportunity to learn and grow.

Talk with them, discuss the issue and let them know how their behaviour is affecting your business and team. Sometimes people just need to have the blinding obvious pointed out to them, and when they do they’re very apologetic.

You never know, maybe your appointment schedule is the problem, not the customers time management skills.

Work With Difficult Customers When You Can

Businesses should review their systems and processes on a regular basis; it’s part of running a successful business. They should be evolving and making minor adjustments, and your difficult customers will help you identify the changes required, and they will work with you, not against you, on bringing them to fruition.

In contrast, your bad customers will work against you, never with you, and they will tell you outright what should be changed, and it’s always to their benefit.

In the end, you’re the business owner, and therefore you get to make the final decision on whether a customer is a good fit for your business or not; are they bad, or just difficult.

However, even a difficult patient may need to be moved on if you cannot address ongoing issues and concerns, no matter how nice they are.

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