How to avoid arguments with clients or customers

I was prompted to share this tip, after recalling an argument between a business owner and one of his customers. It was noisy, public and lost the business owner at least one customer. As you’ll see, the whole situation could have been avoided. Here’s what happened, along with a valuable business lesson.

First, here’s a quote from the 1936 classic, How to win friends and influence people.

The book’s author, Dale Carnegie, said;

“Show respect for the other person’s opinion. Never say, you’re wrong! to them.”

You are right. They are right too. Maybe!

When someone disagrees with us, it’s easy to think that they are wrong. This is especially the case when we truly believe that our opinion is right.

Here’s the thing: It’s entirely possible that their opinion and our opinion are both correct, even when we see things very differently.

For example:

  • I really dislike the taste of almonds. In my opinion and in my experience, almonds taste disgusting.
  • You may love the taste of almonds. In your opinion, they taste absolutely delicious.
  • If we went through a lie detector test, we would both be proven to be telling the truth — even though our answers were 100% different.

That’s the thing about opinions. When an opinion is given as an answer, it’s usually one of dozens, maybe hundreds, of possible correct answers.

How one retailer got it very wrong

I was prompted to write this post, after listening to a business owner arguing with one of his customers. The argument took place in a cycling shop.

Here’s what happened.

The customer asked if the retailer stocked a particular brand of tyre. The retailer asked why the customer wanted that brand. The customer explained that in his experience, it was the best on the market. The retailer then insisted the customer was wrong. He even went so far as to get his iPad out and show some negative Amazon.com reviews of the tyre, which the customer asked for.

Incidentally, I would have picked a different brand of tyre than either of those picked by the customer or the shop owner. That’s because depending on our experience with different brands of tyre, we will have formed different opinions.

Anyhow, the customer walked out of the shop, shaking his head in frustration. After the confrontational stance the retailer took, and his raised voice, I doubt the customer will ever return, especially as he now knows he can get the tyre he wants, for less, on Amazon!

The retailer had a smug grin on his face, assuming he’d won the argument. What he’d actually done, was lose a customer by showing zero respect for the customer’s opinion and turning a sales enquiry into a heated argument. I’m not sure any business owner can sustain too many victories like that.

Turning a difference of opinion into a valuable opportunity

We don’t have to agree with everyone. What we should do, however, is learn to respect their right to their opinion.

Indeed, we can use our difference of opinion as a way to create a useful dialogue. We can even use it to deepen our relationship with customers, clients or contacts.

For example, here’s an effective way to handle a business situation, when your opinion is different from the other person.

  • Explain that all you’re interested in, is finding the best solution for them. This places both of you on the same side. The difference this makes to the tone of the conversation is huge.
  • Give the other person the opportunity to say what they want to say, without butting in. By allowing them to get their point across, they will feel less tense and feel more positively toward you, for showing them respect and recognition.
  • If you believe they’re incorrect or about to make a mistake, you should offer them another perspective. Note: You’re not arguing with them. You’re offering them your perspective based on your experience and expertise.
  • Then, offer an example of how your suggested approach has worked in the past, for people with similar challenges. This is massively more effective than looking for holes in their position and bombarding them with reasons why they’re wrong.
  • Ask them what they think… and listen again without butting in.
  • Because there’s no confrontation, no argument to be won or lost, the other person is free to consider your opinion. They can now agree with you, without losing face.

Does this approach magically win around everyone, whose opinion is different from yours? No.

However, I’ve used this approach since starting my business in 1995 with huge success. It has gained me many clients and many good friends too. Equally, it has never lost me a client, unlike the kind of confrontational approach, used by the store owner in my example.

Interestingly, I’ve always found this approach to be massively more effective at helping others see things my way, than attacking their opinion.

Respect never gets old

The technologies we use today are very different from those, which were used when Carnegie wrote that best-selling book. However, business is still all about people. Showing respect for others and their opinions, is just as important in the 2022 as it was in 1936.

Image by FatCamera on iStock

How to avoid arguments with clients or customers was originally published on Jim Connolly Marketing

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