How to please the unpleasable customer

Please the Unpleasable Customer: Can it be done?

There’s just no pleasing some people. This is a fact of life, and it’s certainly a customer service fact. One of the types of customer that every customer service representative has to deal with is the unpleasable customer. The stereotypical name says it all: ‘unpleasable customer’. The question is: are they truly unpleasable? Or is there a way to please the unpleasable customer?

What defines an Unpleasable Customer?

First, it’s important to understand the unpleasable customer. In a previous article I called them the ‘eternal complainers…who are simply impossible to please.’ It does not matter how far a customer service representative is willing to go, this person will never be happy with the product or the level of service. Essentially, they are the product of their own temperament and there is little to be done to improve it. However, it’s important to note here that an unpleasable customer is not necessarily an unpleasant person.

I had a customer once, in a cafe, who ordered a regular latte and a slice of walnut-carrot cake. Everything was brought to her table in the standard condition – that is to say, with the best service that we provided for all our other customers. The customer touched her coffee and summoned me back; it wasn’t warm enough. I made her another. This one was too hot, she asked for cold milk on the side. I brought this to her, with apologies and an explanation – our coffee machine was analogue and did not deliver the precise temperatures (that machine was one of the reasons why people kept coming back, it added romance to the place). She told me that if that was the case we should buy a new coffee machine. I told her I would suggest it. I didn’t tell her that she was the only one who had complained. By this time the cake was cold. It needed reheating. Then the walnuts were too hard, and didn’t we know how to properly prepare nuts before we baked them into cake?

You get the picture. You probably read that in such a tone that painted the woman’s voice in a judgemental and harsh manner. She wasn’t. Nothing we did that day could make her happy, but she was never unkind about it. She could have been nicer, but she was never cruel or mean.

Everything she asked for fell within her expectations.

That is the crux of the matter: customer expectations. Unpleasable customers have impossible expectations. They are customers that ask for above and beyond because that’s what they want. They’re not necessarily doing it to make life difficult – although, that might be the case in some instances.

Can we please the Unpleasable Customer?

The point of customer service, is that it doesn’t matter what the customer asks for or acts like: every customer should be serviced. It goes against the grain of customer service to say that some customers are just unserviceable; a good customer service representative should know how to make every person who walks into their store walk out feeling valued, validated, and more loyal than before. The idea that you cannot please the unpleasable customer goes against customer service doctrine! It just doesn’t seem possible.

The easiest thing to do would be to give up, of course; so much energy is required to get any satisfaction out of helping someone who won’t be helped. It’s like pulling teeth. Surrender doesn’t help in the long run. Ignoring, or mistreating an unpleasable customer will lead to intense negative feedback and advocacy – perhaps far more so than with simply an unhappy customer.

The bottom line is: no, we cannot please the unpleasable customer.

We can, however, make sure that they are treated correctly, if only to avoid the deeper impact of negative advocacy.

How do we Please the Unpleasable Customer?

If servicing an unpleasable customer is all about managing their expectations – however outlandish those might seem – then it goes without saying that the only way to please them is to do the utmost best you can. Unpleasable customers often require extra attention – sometimes even exclusive attention. They might even be better served by a manager or supervisor, depending on how difficult they are being.

To answer the question then: We please the unpleasable customer by being extra courteous, doing our best, offering our best, and by being exceptionally patient.

Don’t think of them as an obstacle. Think of them as a challenge. Difficult as they may be, the unpleasable customer can still become a loyal one.

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