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Did you hear about the woman who blamed a pool service technician for knocking out her cat's eye while doing repairs? As a matter of fact, I have — she's just one of several wacky customers I've encountered at Rising Sun Pools & Spas. (Luckily, we don't get too many like her.)
In this case, we sent one of our men to an aboveground pool on the customer's property to install a flexible hose clamp. For whatever reason, after he left, she called us screaming about how the clamp popped off and “My cat’s eye has been shot out!” Naturally, this claim concerned us, so I sent a manager to her home to follow up.
He learned that the feline had overgrown fur on its socket, meaning the condition had existed for years and was not caused by us. While dealing with the customer to clarify the situation, she accidentally closed the door on her pet’s tail – and then accused him of trying to kill her pet! He called to inform me of the situation, and I told him to get out of there and come back immediately.
Incredibly, the woman still remained a customer despite her weird behavior and allegations. I can only assume that our professional behavior in other areas impressed her enough to stay with us.
This sort of instance of customers behaving badly has been few and far between in the 15 years that I have been in the pool business. Most people are easy to deal with, even when disagreeing with us about a product or service.
Unexpected incidents can and will happen, however, even despite your best efforts. When they do, they can be instructive to you as well as amusing, although it might not be funny at the time. Consider the following example.
While some clients are fine having maintenance work take place while they're gone, there are exceptions. Once, one of our staff forgot to call ahead of his visit. When the pool technician came to the backyard, the woman was skinny dipping in the pool, and, well, let’s just say that we always call her 10 minutes in advance to avoid her and our staff from both being surprised.
Talking with your customers in advance about coming out for work on their property is a must. Tell them you may be able to come a day or a few hours earlier than your normal visit and see if that will pose a potential problem. Otherwise, the outcome could be damaging to you or your staff if not handled immediately and correctly as our situation was.
On a similar note, it makes sense to inform customers about any out of the ordinary requests for pools with different shapes or amenities. Most of ours realize that specialized designs add considerably to their construction and maintenance costs and decline to use them.
We once had a client who really wanted an NC State University logo on the liner of his pool. He insisted on it, and waited a year until he discovered it would not work the way he wanted. By that time, he had missed at least one good season to use his pool, all in a failed effort to show his support in a way few would otherwise notice.
Some craziness cannot be prevented unless you want to curtail your effectiveness in getting business. A great example of this: having models on display outside your stores. Several passersby have stopped, parked in our lot and assumed we have installed a public pool they could use — even without any water in it!
One woman wanted to see if an aboveground pool we had on display outside would work for her needs, so she stripped down to her undergarments and climbed in it. Needless to say, there were a lot of cars driving by — and a lot of horns honking.
Twenty years ago, a customer received some complimentary clarifying tablets from my father, who owned the business at the time. Somehow, the customer assumed this one-time freebie would be a recurring thing, even when I took over the business with my brother and sister.
“So, what do I get free today?” he would say in a typical conversation.
“Nothing, sorry,” I would respond.
“Your dad used to give us free stuff!” he would shoot back.
“I can’t do that, because if I did it for you, I’d have to do it for everyone else to be fair,” I calmly explained. He did this repeatedly, even while the clarifying tablets that first made an impression on him ended production a decade ago.
That customer finally stopped coming to me, but his approach continues with several customers who ask us to do free water testing, as we advertise, without buying the chemicals needed to correct their problems from us. Typically when this happens, we will ask them if it is really fair for them to use our time and materials without compensation. They realize what they are doing is wrong, as do other customers who overhear the conversation, and the problem is solved.
If you are spending hours of phone calls and consultation for people with odd requests, let them go. You’re only opening up yourself to a lifetime of aggravation with them.
While the crazy ones can produce memorable stories, you are better off using sane customers. There are plenty of them out there, and they can be just as fun.
What are your craziest customer stories? Comment with your tales.
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