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What’s the Best Way to Deal with Rude Customers Who Are Also Big Spenders?

We take a page from the 2007 bestseller The No Asshole Rule to answer this question.




There’s either not enough work to fill a day or more work than we know what to do with. How can I excite my team at either end of the business spectrum?

“It’s not so much about exciting the team at the ends of the spectrum, it’s keeping them excited as we flow through that spectrum,” says Stephanie Wise, of Print Express in Torrington, Wyoming. She has a small team that talks a lot, has good rapport, and keeps it light. “If the workload is overbearing, we section it off to what we can get done and challenge ourselves to get it done in a decent time frame. On days we have less workload, it’s a breather day. We know it won’t last long, so we catch up on things we might have overlooked. Everything is a challenge and sort of a game – who can get what done or how much? Everyone wins and the customers stay happy.”

I find it difficult to balance my desire to be liked and do my job properly, especially when it comes to disciplining staff or enforcing shop initiatives. Any ideas on how to deal with this?

There’s a saying offered in such situations that it’s better – and easier – to be respected than to be liked. And while that’s a useful truism to guide your behavior, it tends to overlook two things: 1) Society applies yet another double standard to overly aggressive women in business, and 2) The very best managers are able to strike a delicate balance of hard and soft. As you seem to appreciate, being a good boss means being able to give tough, clear, fair feedback. You can’t sugar-coat or sit on problems, and when something goes wrong or if a person messes up or is underperforming, it’s the responsibility of the manager to take action. It’s important to keep in mind that respect is about more than just being demanding. Workers need to know your heart is in the right place. People will follow a manager and put up with even harsh criticism if they believe your ultimate goal is to bring out the best in them and the shop. At the same time, you need to be able to show compassion and be someone your staff can approach with their problems. Win their respect this way, and they will like you, as well.

How do I make my business more sensitive and responsive to diversity around us?

Brian McComak, founder and CEO of Hummingbird Humanity, a diversity and inclusion consultant, speaker, author, and facilitator with more than 25 years of experience in diversity and inclusion, suggests you start with the people you turn to for advice, guidance, or mentoring, or what he calls your Trusted 10. “Write down the 10 people you go to for business advice,” he suggests. “Then, list their identities: gender identity, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, etc. If you find that your list of advisors is very similar in their identity, work to intentionally build trusted relationships with individuals who have different lived experiences. Ask for their input, wisdom, and counsel.” Once you start looking for input from outside your traditional social circle, you’ll likely find there’s a significant amount you can do to build relationships – both commercial and social – with typically underrepresented groups.

What’s the best way to deal with rude customers who are also big spenders?

Bob Sutton, the Stanford business professor who penned the 2007 bestseller The No Asshole Rule has noted, on average, the more well-educated, wealthier, and more prestigious people are, the worse they behave. These people are often your best customers. There is, of course, a wide range of jerks, from the clueless who are so wrapped up in themselves they aren’t aware of the offense they give to the out-and-out nasty who seem to take pleasure in demeaning people. When you signal to the former that their behavior is making you or a staff member uncomfortable, they will often act in surprise and modify it. As for the genuine a-holes, Sutton acknowledges it’s a tough situation for a small business owner, especially when one customer can make the difference between a good week and a bad one. In such instances, he recommends a form of sucking it up, but using a mental survival trick to maintain your cool and your self-respect. It’s called temporal distancing. The idea is to try to frame the engagement almost as if you aren’t present, as if you’re watching it from a day later, or a week later and looking back at what’s happening. A similar approach is to pretend you’re a social scientist who has come across a special specimen and thinks: “Oh, what a fascinating subject or specimen. I can’t believe how lucky I am to see this close up.” The idea is not to get dragged into the point where you react emotionally or take it personally. Sutton adds there is an unwritten belief among print service providers that such clients be levied an “asshole tax.” “The nastier you are, the more money you end up paying and the worse people you have serving you,” he says. Yes, suck it up if you have no choice. But make sure you walk away from the encounter on top.

I can’t keep a check on my emotions in high-pressure business situations. Any suggestions?

Instead of telling yourself to calm down – the conventional approach – turn the dial in the other direction, says Harvard Business School’s Alison Wood Brooks. Reframe that nervousness as excitement. So, instead of saying “I’m nervous about making this pitch,” say “I’m excited about making this pitch.” Writing in Harvard Magazine, Brooke says it works because nervousness and excitement are similar. They’re both high arousal emotions; it’s just that one is negative and the other is positive

There’s a lot of stuff online about how to boost your Google ranking. But in 2022, what should we focus on?

In the Google universe, you are what you “EAT,” says Andrea Hill of Hill Management Group. Google will determine where your website ranks by your online demonstrations of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (“EAT”). “So, make sure you prove yourself on your website. Your policies, content, and the quality of what you sell all count when it comes to your ranking,” says Hill. One simple way to begin demonstrating EAT while producing relevant content is with a question-and-answer page. Another page to check and update periodically is your About Us page (adding information about new staff members, for example). The second key thing is to be consistent with all your store information, especially the basic stuff like store name, address details, and phone numbers – it needs to be exactly the same everywhere.



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