How to Handle Difficult Jewelry Customers

by Rena Klingenberg.

How to Handle Difficult Jewelry Customers, by Rena Klingenberg - Jewelry Making Journal

The vast majority of jewelry customers are a pleasure to serve. They’re genuinely terrific people who are considerate of our time, appreciative of our work, and really inspire us to build a great jewelry business.

Unfortunately, however, there’s a very small minority of customers who are difficult, demanding, or unreasonable to work with.

Although they’re few and far between, difficult customers can cause major headaches and even a loss of profits if we aren’t prepared for them.

Here are some ways to handle those few difficult customers gracefully, without damaging your jewelry business.

Prevent Problems by Developing Your Customer Policies

Being prepared for difficult customers in advance can really help minimize their impact on you and your jewelry business.

As one of the start-up steps for your jewelry business (or as soon as possible if you’re already in business!), I highly recommend that you decide on your customer policies for issues like:

  • guaranteeing your work
  • altering/adjusting/resizing jewelry
  • refunds
  • exchanges
  • custom orders
  • payment
  • pricing for your time
  • haggling/bargaining
  • discounts
  • freebies

Determining your policies ahead of time enables you to make the right call when faced with unexpected situations or unreasonable customer demands. You’ll have well-thought-out guidelines to fall back on instead of relying on your first impulse.

In contrast, it’s much harder to make good a business decision if you’ve never considered your refund policy until a difficult customer is standing in front of you with the mangled remains of the bracelet she bought from you two years ago, demanding her money back.

It turns out that she dropped the bracelet in her driveway and backed up over it with her own car. Now she wants to return it for a refund because she can’t wear it.

If you haven’t had this customer yet, just wait – you will!

When developing your customer policies, keep your good customers in mind as well as your difficult ones. It’s important to balance the need to protect your business, with the need to provide exceptional service to your customers. Use your policies to set boundaries that are reasonable and professional.

For one customer policy example that protects both the jewelry artist and the customer, see Custom Jewelry Orders.

Don’t Take It Personally

When you’re presenting your own handcrafted designs to the public, the things people say and do can bruise your self-esteem a lot more than they would if you were just displaying a manufacturer’s jewelry line. And that can make customer service issues much more difficult and uncomfortable to handle.

But even though it’s hard not to feel hurt or insulted when confronted by a rude or unreasonable customer, staying calm and objective is the most professional and effective approach.

Remember that what the customer says and does reflects on him, not on you. And anything you say or do reflects on you.

So instead of taking things personally, focus instead on solving the problem at hand. Difficult customer situations are problem-solving occasions!

Don’t Start Something
You Don’t Want to Continue

When business is slow and you’re desperate to make a sale, it’s very tempting to make concessions and allow customers to make demands on you that are not necessarily in the best interests of your business.

But be careful, because if you go against your usual policies, you’ll be setting a precedent you may regret. If you waver on your established policies and pricing even once, people will assume they’re negotiable.

And when other people hear about the concessions you granted to one customer, they’ll be upset if you don’t grant the same favors to them. Some people will even try to push your boundaries to see how much they can get out of you.

If you start down that path, you’ll wind up with customers who walk all over you.

One jewelry artist told me about a wealthy customer who evidently decided she wanted a “personal jeweler” at her beck and call. The customer believed that, after buying a necklace from this artist, all sorts of services were due to her at no additional charge – such as having the new necklace re-designed for her several times, and having several pieces of heavily tarnished antique jewelry cleaned and repaired by the artist.

Because the jewelry artist was trying to get her business started, she tried hard to accommodate this woman. She thought that taking good care of this wealthy but demanding customer would pay off in the long run in the form of more sales and referrals.

Instead, she quickly found herself losing money and time as she continually ordered more supplies to re-design the necklace, and struggled to meet the customer’s other demands on her time. Finally she had to accept the fact that this was not a customer she needed.

It’s usually best (and most professional) to decide how you want to operate, and stick to your plan.

Avoiding Difficult Customers

Because you can’t be all things to all people, your jewelry business will run more smoothly if you know which types of customers to pursue and which to avoid.

Take some time to think about the kinds of jewelry projects and services you enjoy and excel at, and then work hard at attracting and keeping the type of customers who are the best fit for you.

Also keep your antennae out for the type of customers you DON’T want, and head them off at the pass. The best time to avoid entanglements with difficult clients is before making a sale or an agreement with them.

If someone wants a product or service you really don’t want to provide, makes unreasonable demands, or balks at your prices or policies, realize that this is a can of worms you don’t want to open. Politely tell this customer that you can’t meet her needs, suggest another business that may be able to help her, and head off a problem before it starts.

This strategy will help you grow a profitable and enjoyable jewelry business by focusing your time and energy on attracting the projects and customers you do want to serve and keep.

Rena Klingenberg

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