We recently got a comment on one of our blog posts basically asking, "But what if you hate your customers?" I think this is an interesting dilemma and at some point in time most of us are, at the least, annoyed with customers. It's often love/hate with some businesses having more love and others having more hate in that ratio. If you're not feeling the love, then this post is for you! Next week we'll talk about how to love your customers.
Dealing with "the Public" is Often Annoying... in Any Profession
It can feel like you are dealing with particularly frustrating people and that maybe there is something wrong with you or your business because you keep encountering mean or terrible people. Remember that you are not alone and that unless you are dealing with this in particularly high volumes or on an ongoing basis, this is just business.
I worked with a restaurant for a couple years, which meant I had to deal with Yelp! reviews more than most other businesses do and you quickly learn which reviewers to ignore. And I'm sure through your own Yelp! perusal of reviews you filter out people who seem to just complain to complain, people who complain about something that probably won't happen when you dine there (they ran out of chicken! the power went out!), and then people who complain in a way that shows that there might be ongoing problems. You rarely hold these things against the restaurant unless it's a complaint like the latter. So, when someone complains to you in the manner of the other complaints, just remember not to take it personal and realize people are complaining this way to EVERY business (and probably even more if it's a restaurant;)).
If Your Customers Don't Like You then They Probably Aren't Your Customers
Essentially there are people who buy your things and then there are your customers... your fans, your cheerleaders, your supporters. There are lots of people who might be buying your stuff just to buy it at that moment or they've got gifts to buy, but that doesn't mean this is your core or your fan base, as it were. Ignore the people who are non-customers when they complain about ridiculous or silly things. If your core audience is happy, then that's what really matters.
But... My Core Audience IS Complainers
Well, then this is a problem that could result from a couple of reasons. You could be pricing yourself so that you get a lot of bargain hunters, which is not usually ideal for artisan-made goods (and also likely an indication that your prices might be too low).
I deal with this in my own PR work sometimes, because I try to keep my prices low so I can work with creative small businesses that typically aren't "rolling in it". That means people will work with me who, even though I really try to vet them, are really looking for a "deal" more than anything. And, as I'm sure you can attest to, bargain hunters are very hard to please because they care little about quality. This means that when you are offering artisan-made goods to them, something that is purchased usually because of it's quality or uniqueness, they aren't really appreciating what you offer, so will often not ever be truly happy with it.
Another reason for this might be that you've gotten yourself into a niche that is fussy for whatever reason. If this is becoming TOO much of a challenge for you (let's face it, we all deal with rough customers at some point, but ongoing might signal trouble), an attitude adjustment on your end or pivoting your product so it targets a different customer might be needed.
Lastly, it could be, just maybe, that a product you are making is not making sense or isn't what customers are expecting, which could be leading to a lot of complaints. You could be using photos that don't accurately portray the size, color, etc., or you're constructing your product in a way that is causing defect. Just make sure you are really listening to what they are saying (evening if they are saying it in a really annoying rant). Don't fight it unless you are prepared to really blaze a new trail. When people don't get something even if you have great reasons for why you are doing it, trying to convince them can often be an uphill battle and you've got better things to do.
Farm Out Customer Service
Like anything that you aren't good at or hate doing (like taxes!), there is no rule that says handmade businesses must sell their stuff at craft shows or deal with customer emails. Both of these aspects of your business are easily things you can hire an employee to do... often giving you more time to do something you love, which is making awesome product (and this will often help you make more money)! A virtual assistant is great for answering emails so rude comments won't have to ruin your day, and finding someone to sell at shows can also be a great help to you, as well. Or skip shows all together (they can be A LOT of work and a gamble whether or not you will do well).
Know When to Move On
At the end of the day, if it's just too much to deal with, for whatever reason, you are in control of your business and you can start making something else that will cater to an audience that excites you. Most makers get into their businesses by enjoying making something, people want to buy that thing and then they think, "oh yeah, I should sell this." Most other businesses start by looking at what needs they can fill in the market, which allows you to first think about what your customer then build the product, instead of the other way around.
Neither way is necessarily right or wrong, but by starting with your customer helps to ensure that you are working in a niche that you love. Just remember that every business has it's unfun parts and the grass isn't always greener. But I trust you're smart, clever and thoughtful when it comes to your business, so have every confidence you will make the right decision for you!
How do you deal with times when you can't stand your customers? Let us know in the comments below.