Dealing With Really Tough Customers – Book Review

Who’s Your Gladys?: How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer Into Your Biggest Fan

By Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest, AMACOM, New York, NY, Aug. 2009, 240 pages, $22.95.

Two Michigan businesswomen have penned a solid book on dealing with troublesome customers.

We all know that we need to honor our customers’ wishes if we want to keep our businesses afloat, but some of them can make it a challenge.

In our tough economic environment, we know our customers are more knowledgeable and more skeptical than ever before. We also are very aware of heightened competition and the emergence of increasing options for our customers. While applying all the latest marketing techniques, we cannot lose sight of the human needs and interests each customer brings to the table.

Marilyn Suttle is a recognized consultant in relationship building, and Lori Jo Vest is a 20-year veteran of building customer relationships in the communications and television industry. Together they built their book around the documented experiences of 10 firms. Each vignette is delivered as a separate chapter, and each deals with a specific problem customer and issue.

To drive home the points made in each chapter the authors build a final chapter with each key point highlighted. The 10 points delivered are that the difficult customer will:
-¢ Respond when you pay attention to details.
-¢ Respond to compassion.
-¢ Respond to passion.
-¢ Respond when you go the extra mile.
-¢ Respond when you don’t take conflict personally.
-¢ Respond to a long-term relationship.
-¢ Respond to a well-trained staff.
-¢ Respond to two-way communication.
-¢ Respond to continuous improvement.
-¢ Respond to creative problem solving.

This is a fast-paced and readable book on customer relationship building. The authors are effective communicators on the subject, and the real-life stories make for a solid book on the topic.

For the small business leader who may be struggling with customer relationships, the book includes a lot of helpful summaries and questions and answer sections on each of the 10 topics. In addition, the authors have included several references that can be helpful is assessing any problems regarding customer relationships and how best to address them.

In a difficult business environment, a refresher on this topic is certainly in order, and this book is a good tool for the effort.

Bob Clark is the president of RWC Consulting LLC and has more than 30 years experience in labor-management relations. He provides consulting help in labor relations and is an adjunct professor at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Mich.