Toxic Customers

05/14/2013
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I didn’t think that I would use this blog to rant, but I feel that I need to get it out of my system as it is really polluting and bogging down my work day.

I feel weak, allowing silly things cloud my thinking and hold me back from accomplishing my goals for the day.  Hence, this rant to just get it out of my head, try to make peace with it, learn to improve and protect my frame of mind, and move on.

I need to learn how to ignore toxic customers, and channel my energy to assisting more customers, reaching more people, and just build our business to help more people.  I’m getting better at this, but nasty customer emails completely kill my mood to work positively and productively.

(Note: 99% of our customers are wonderful, appreciative customers.  But as in anything in life, there will be a few bad apples)

Here’s what went down….

A customer (whom is a designer) landed a major project with a big corporate client (in her words, “the website will be a million dollar launch”).  Whatever that means, my take away from her is that her mortgage / rent will be paid on time for a while.

She purchased one of our templates for around $40, and proceeded to design and build the website for her large client.  She emailed us once in a while to help her, and we helped her troubleshoot, etc.  So we’ve seen the website and we know she’s building the website using our product.

After her website was launched, she emailed us a couple of weeks later and asked us to exchange the template she was using, for the new template we just launched.  She cited that there was a flaw in the product, when we think she just didn’t like a certain design aspect of the product.

I suspect that her large client asked her to change something but she couldn’t (since she didn’t create the template, and she isn’t a proficient developer / coder), so her only option is to ask us for the new product which has a new feature that “solved” her problem.

Why I had an issue with this situation

I have a few issues with this situation:

  1. The “flaw” that she pointed out is in fact, just part of the design.  Some people like it, some people may not like it.  Design is a very personal thing.  My point is, she had every opportunity to preview the product and ask us questions before purchasing.  If I didn’t like the design of a pair of shoes, I won’t buy it.  Again I suspect it’s her client that changed their minds or asked her to alter a few things, but she wasn’t able to (just guessing here – trying to understand her situation)
  2. She never flagged the “flaw” over many weeks in which she was using our template.  Why now?  That didn’t make any logical sense to me.
  3. She used our template and I suspect she was paid handsomely for her work, and now she wants to exchange the product.  In principle, I have a huge problem with this.  Our product delivered what it was intended to do (we know this as we helped her a few times along the way).

I find this situation wrong on so many different levels.  I was polite (at least I think I was) in asking her to explain to me in a bit more details why she never raised this issue before she purchased, or during the weeks when she was building our the website.  She didn’t give me one solid reason, and demanded an exchange and “pounding the table” that our design was flawed.

She proceeded to leave a very nasty email and public comment about us, which made me even more angry (just admitting my emotions here).  Connie and I work based on trust, integrity and customer service.  Those are our core values and we feel that this customer is trying to violate them.

We really tried to understand what was the source of all this nastiness, but we can’t understand it, which upset us even more.

In any case, this is an event of the past, and we’ll have to move on.  Every entrepreneur / business will inevitably face toxic customers.  It doesn’t happen very often, thank goodness.

Lessons Learned

Here are my takeaways from this experience:

  1. Honestly reflect if we were at fault in any way – what we can do to prevent this from happening again
  2. Sometimes, trying to understand customers’ perspective just doesn’t work.  It’s probably my fault to some extent (probably due to the lack of information) makes me even more upset when I don’t understand their real situation.  I need to learn to accept that people have their own emotions , regardless of what triggered them, and not be upset when “I don’t get it”
  3. Deal with unreasonable / toxic customers quickly, decisively, and move on – dwelling with them is dangerous as they could be hazardous to my mindset.  It also drains our energy to focus on working with and providing more value to good customers.
  4. Maintain a positive mindset, be thankful – it’s everything in business
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