Recently, on a private Facebook artist group, an artist asked for advice on dealing with a challenging customer on a custom order. (The details aren't important here, and I don't have permission to share them, anyway.)
I read the comments already posted. Some were helpful, some (a bit snarky) maybe not so much. And I was about to weigh in with my own two cents, and then I remembered a quote (from Albert Einstein, I think), along the lines of: "To solve a problem, don't engage in the level of thinking that created the problem in the first place."
And that got me thinking about a "bigger picture": about our relationship to our customers and them to us...and I remembered a conversation led by a master wedding and portrait photographer in a seminar I attended, one that I first heard many years ago. It had to do with "A", "B" and "C" Customers.
I don't know if the seminar leader invented this set of distinctions. Maybe Bruce Baker talks about this topic in his sales tape series; I have no idea and if he does, by all means go there and listen! But I found it a useful way to look at my customers and my relationship with them, and my perceived value ("what am I worth to my customers? And what are they worth to me?") so I thought it worth sharing in this forum.
You may or may not agree with the categorizations for each "customer type." If so, heeding Einstein's maxim, change 'em to suit your business and your values.
You may think the exercise is deeply flawed, or has no value to you. That's fine. If so, heeding Einstein's maxim, say "thank you for sharing" and move on. Please resist the temptation to nit-pick the details in the comment thread.
So, with all that said, the conversation went something like this:
1.Spend money with you, respect you, have integrity in how they operate (keep their word, keep their deadlines) .
2, Are "champions" for your work and reputation, and refer you to their friends, who may also buy from you.
3. You feel like a professional when dealing with them, and that owning your work makes a difference in their lives.
These are the customers that make your face light up when you see them coming to your booth.
Spend money with you, but not consistently. Sometimes, but not always, fulfill 1, 2, or 3. (Your "bread and butter" customers.)
1. Spend money with you, but make you work for it in ways that are occasionally aggravating and/or demeaning. Don't seem to understand or value your work.
2. Complain and criticize; may return items while they're doing it. Ask for excessive discounts or to not pay sales tax.
3. When working with them, you feel unappreciated, or that you're "doing it for the money", and that your work makes little or no difference in their lives.
4. When they leave your booth, you're exhausted. And more often then not, you're glad to see 'em go.
The point isn't that we all should strive to work with only A customers (although that's one option!). Or that we should never work with C's (although that's another). The point is: know who you're willing to work with, and know who is standing in front of you. What behaviors or comments would you use to place a customer in one category or another?
And here's a useful "bonus challenge" worth engaging in: For BONUS POINTS: Assess you and your business in the same manner. Asked another way: "Who are YOU, for your customers???"