This is how you handle difficult customers|Story no. 31/101

One morning, an angry customer stormed into the office of Julian F. Detmer, founder of the Detmer Woolen Company, which later became the world’s largest distributor of woolens tailoring trade.

“This man owed us a small sum of money,” Mr. Detmer explained to me. “The customer denied it, but we knew he was wrong. So our credit department had insisted that he should pay. After getting a number of letters from our credit department, he packed his grip, made a trip to Chicago, and hurried into my office to inform me not only that he was not going to pay that bill, but that he was never going to buy another dollar’s worth of goods from the Detmer Woolen Company.

“I listened patiently to all he had to say. I was tempted to interrupt, but I realized that would be bad policy, So I let him talk himself out. When he finally calmed down and got in a receptive mood, I said quietly: ‘I want to thank you for coming to Chicago to tell me about this. You have done me a great favour – if our credit department has annoyed you, it may annoy other good customers, and that would be just too bad. Believe me, I am far more eager to hear this than you are to tell it.’

“That was the last thing in the world he expected me to say. I think he was a disappointed, because he had come to Chicago to tell me a thing or two, but here I was thanking him instead of scrapping with him. I assured him we would wipe the charge off the books and forget it, because he was a very careful man with only one account to look after, while our clerks had to look after thousands. Therefore, he was less likely to be wrong than we were.

“I told him that I understood exactly how he felt and that, if I were in his shoes, I should undoubtedly feel precisely as he did. Since he wasn’t going to buy from us anymore, I recommended some other woolen houses.

“In the past, we had usually lunched together when he came to Chicago, so I invited him to have lunch with me this day. He accepted reluctantly, but when we came back to the office he placed a larger order than ever before. He returned home in a softened mood and, wanting to be just as fair with us as we had been with him. He looked over his bills, found one that had been mislaid, and sent us a check with his apologies.

De-briefing of this Story

To be a good conversationalist, be an attentive listener. Ask questions that other persons will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments. Remember that the people you are talking to are a hundred times more interested in themselves than they are in you and your problems. A person’s toothache means more to that person than a famine in China which kills a million people. Think of that the next time you start a conversation.

This story can be used to share the importance

1- People Skills

2- Listening Skills

Story credits

From the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

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