Topic Teasers Vol. 123: Handling Difficult Customers

Heartland Nebraska / Iowa Chapter

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Since we’ve changed to a more customer involved project management process, I spend more time with customers. I know this is theoretically a good thing, but the customer I have is quite a handful to manage. I’m afraid my adult communication skills are slipping and I am aching to be able to throw a fit like a 5-year-old. Knowing I can’t change my client, how can I have more successful interactions by changing my own actions?

A. It’s difficult to be the focal point of a customer’s dissatisfaction, even though you may not actually be the cause of their unhappiness. But there are steps you can take—actions that fit nicely into managing the project—and that may allow you to have a better communication channel with this person. It’s worth a try.

B. You may have heard the quote, “This would be a great business if it weren’t for the customers and the employees.” Customers are always either truly discontent or feigning a miserable attitude in order to try for a lower price. There is nothing you can do as the project manager to please a person determined to be unhappy, so make sure your sales department has bullet-proof contracts stating that you will get paid on a time basis and not …

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"The degree of one's emotion varies inversely with one's knowledge of the facts--the less you know, the hotter you get."

- Bertrand Russell