Fashion Business Owner Musings: Dealing with People Sucks Sometimes

startup fashion business owner musings
OK, I’m gonna say it. People can be assholes.

Not all people, of course. But some of them.

I’m writing in reference to dealing with people in our businesses- I’m talking about customer service.

It’s a tough area to discuss; it’s tricky, I should say. Particularly because I’m a business owner and I’m writing in this blog that my customers or potential customers (that’s you!) are reading. And I love you guys and gals. Without you, I would have no business.

With that said, I don’t believe that the customer is always right. Especially when said customer is rude, insulting, demanding, demeaning, entitled, or all of the above.

I’ve had a little does of this hurled to me a few times in the last month- people who immediately fly off the handle when things are not as they expected or anticipated.

As business owners, we need to be polite and we need to keep our cool. But that’s not so easy when you’re being spoken to as if you’re a child or a servant or a dummy.

And unfortunately, when you’re dealing with the public on a regular basis, this shit is going to happen.

So what do we do? How do we as business owners make sure that we are representing ourselves and our brands in a professional and respectable manner but at the same time not being total push-overs and letting people get away with unacceptable acts of rudeness?

As someone who tends to snap back quickly (though is working on not doing this!) I’m not sure I have the answer but I will say that I have a few best practices that have helped me lately when it comes to keeping my cool.

While these aren’t perfect, they are much better ideas than sending that email you’ve recited in your head that says something along the lines of –

Who the %*$% do you think you are talking to me like that?

First, I walk away from the computer. The real reason for this is so that I make it physically impossible to respond. Therefore ensuring that I don’t do anything I will regret later.

Next, I seek out someone to tell the story to. Now, I’m not saying that I do this calmly. “Telling the story” usually involves me talking to my partner, telling him about this obnoxious email or comment I just received. I let myself be all worked up over it for just a minute or two. I allow myself the room to vent and express exasperation at this person’s lack of couth and kindness. This helps me to “send my email” without sending my email.

This also is a perfect way to get someone else’s perspective. When I talk to my partner about it, he has a great way of justifying my anger while simultaneously reminding me that there’s nothing I can do about how people choose to act. I can only control how I act. This inevitably lands me on the whole “being the bigger person” thing.

After I’ve talked it through, I feel calmer and less incensed. But that doesn’t mean that I just sit down and craft a “sure, whatever you want” response. Nope. I think about what they’re saying and why they may be saying it.

They’re either complaining about something I have control over or something I don’t. If it’s the latter, I reply with a simple message that, while polite, makes it clear that this is something that is out of my control and suggests where they should go to get the help they seek.

If it is something I have control of (as most of the ragingly rude emails fall under), I respond in a way that addresses their request or need, and pointedly makes note of why the situation is what it is. I say “pointedly” because I’m not making excuses. No, I’m telling them how it is and why it is in a clear and concise yet still polite way.

I know that it is so tempting to rage back. I know that you are a good person who is both angered and hurt that a customer would speak to you that way. And I know that the tough business person in you wants to fight back. It’s a natural response of a strong person.

I also know that it’s not always easy to follow the “bigger person” route. When you get that email in all caps and stuffed with multiple strings of exclamation points wanting to know why their dress has not arrived yet or when you plan to process their return, you want to reply with a big fat, “We’re all human and things sometimes take longer than expected and why the hell are you screaming at me like that and why do you think that’s an acceptable way to speak to anyone?….”

But don’t.

Just take a big breath, remember why you do what you do and also who you do it for, and smile in the knowledge that this person and their ALL CAPS and !!!!!!!!, is the one with the issues to figure out. Not you. Nope, you’re the one who is happily building a business you love for people who will also love it; creating something you are proud of, living a life that makes you happy. You win.

All my love and encouragement,

Nicole Giordano

Nicole is the founder of StartUp FASHION, an online resource and community supporting for independent designers around the world with building their businesses. A deep love for the craft of fashion paired with an adamant belief that success is defined by the individual, led her to found StartUp FASHION, where she helps independent designers and makers screw the traditional fashion business rules, create their own paths, and build businesses they truly love. More than anything else, she’s in the business of encouragement and works every day to remind makers and designers that they have something special to offer the world and that they can, in fact, do this thing!

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