Pesky customers, and one way of handling them


Employee: “Boss, this gentleman’s got a Word document he’d like to print.”

Boss: “Damn him. Microsoft? Microsoft?! What sort of person uses Microsoft software? Why doesn’t he use a Mac? Out! Out! Tell him to get out!”

Employee: “But he’s the tenth person today who’s asked for that. And we are a print shop.”

Boss: “Yes, and I’m sick of telling these people to sod off. I bet he brought his document on a floppy disk too. Pah! A luddite as well a philistine.”

Employee: “Maybe we should stop saying no? Printing Word documents might even be a money-spinner. Enough people seem to want it.”

Boss: “I’ve got a better idea. I’ll put a big sign on my window to keep scum like this out of my shop. I’ve got principles, you know.”

Employee: ”But aren’t you worried that you might scare off genuine, Mac-using, pen-drive-toting customers too?”

Boss: “The cowards, you mean? Why would we want to serve cowards? They’re as bad as philistines and luddites.”

Employee: “Yes, boss. How big do you want that sign?”

You wouldn’t do this, right? Or would you? Post here, or carry on the conversation on Twitter (I’m @neildavidson). I’ll give $20 of Amazon vouchers to the best comment or tweet.

9 responses to “Pesky customers, and one way of handling them”

  1. Peter Clark says:

    >> Empathy is the capability to share your feelings and understand another’s emotion and feelings.
    I’ve been researching/practicing/learning about selling recently and the common trait in all the great sales people I’ve spoken to is empathy. If you have that, you’re instantly head and shoulders above everyone else.
    Take their problem “I just want to compare SQL Schemas!” and understand their frustration and succinctly ensure they realize that their problem, and your solution, are aligned.

  2. Michael Pryor says:

    I’m going to challenge your $20 payment idea with evidence from Predictably Irrational:
    “The author proves that people are happy to do things, but occasionally not when they are paid to do so. In some situations work output is negatively affected by payment of small amounts of money. Other tests showed that work done as a

  3. Scott Devereux says:

    I would not do that. I don’t see the point in turning away peoples business based upon a prejudice of some kind.
    If the customers patronage is detrimental to ones business, then it would be prudent to not service them, but to deny an entire market segment because they do not fit the image of your current core demographic is counter productive.
    Elitism might work well as a marketing campaign to attract a customer base, but the reality is, if you wish to keep expanding, eventually you will have to cater to people who may not meet your existing customer model but can still bring value to your business.

  4. Michael,
    I think you’re spot on.
    But I also notice that this is the first time you’ve commented on my blog …

  5. Steve Jones says:

    It appears that the characters are crossing the line from principles to preaching. It’s one thing to adhere to what you believe in, but those are strongly held beliefs like morality, legality, things that have a lifetime beyond a few years.
    If you fundamentally believe that Microsoft is somehow evil, then you’ve cross the line from just turning away business to personal attacks.
    This type of behavior isn’t needed in business, though I would agree more principles would be nice.

  6. Andy Brice says:

    +1 to Michael Pryor
    I am actually reading “Predictably Irrational” at the moment.

  7. frank says:

    Jason Fried has made a career of this. Try suggesting Gantt Chart for Bascamp and you’ll see what I man.

  8. Andrew Craze says:

    Of course I would agree, and I hope this lesson is obvious to anyone in any business. What I think is a more subtle danger is the inability to recognize that sometimes (rarely) you really do need to “fire your customer.”
    I’ve seen people in professional service businesses keep customers on who were difficult, irrational, didn’t pay on time or in full, and overall cost the business money rather than being a profit source.
    Having good customer service is a worthy goal, and I don’t recommend dropping customers that squawk. On the contrary, take those things and learn to improve from them. But also recognize that the customer is not always right, just 99% of the time.

  9. Brian says:

    There is a small but passionate minority who strongly approve of this view, which might be the niche they are pursuing. If this was a conscious decision to pursue that niche, more power to them. They are catering to the attitudes and needs of their target customers, and (hopefully for them) differentiating themselves from other competitors within that group.
    Of course in the case of these characters it appears to be nothing more than a spiteful refusal, in which case it seems kind of pointless. A polite refusal with a simple explanation of why you cannot help (“Oh I’m sorry, we don’t have any machines capable of taking a floppy disk – If you try ‘Ye Olde Floppy Printers’ three blocks over, they have a computer that can read floppies”), can offset much of the damage of the refusal, and likely stick in the back of the person’s head (“If they were so helpful when I wasn’t even a customer, imagine how great they’ll be when I am one!”).