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What Should You Do When a Client Threatens to Sue?

This could be your line in the sand.

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Ever come across one of those clients who likes to threaten to sue you whenever they are not happy? How do you handle them?

No brainer, says Dr. MyHanh Dang of Gateway Eye Associates in Pittsburgh, PA. “As soon as someone introduces a threat of unjustified legal action, my tolerance level goes to zero. At that point, they get a full refund, a copy of their Rx, and I terminate our relationship, explaining that the doctor-patient trust has been compromised. Then I wish them the best of luck with another eyecare place that they trust.” At that point, says Dang, “often a reasonable person will realize their actions and apologize. At that point, we can move forward positively. ”

Every once in a while, I catch my staff saying things to customers that make me cringe. What are some of the key no-nos?

Here’s a nice succinct list of “let’s not go there” service statements, along with suggested replacements, from Karen Leland and Keith Bailey, the authors of Customer Service for Dummies. “Don’t say, ‘I don’t know.’ Do say, ‘I will find out.’ Don’t say, ‘No.’ Do say, ‘What I can do is…’ Don’t say, ‘That’s not my job.’ Do say, ‘This is who can help you …’ Don’t say, ‘You’re right — this stinks.’ Do say, ‘I understand your frustration.’ Don’t say, ‘That’s not my fault.’ Do say, ‘Let’s see what we can do about this.’ Don’t say, ‘You need to talk to my manager.’ Do say, ‘I can help you.’ Don’t say, ‘You want it by when?’ Do say, ‘I’ll try my best.’ Don’t say, ‘Calm down.’ Do say, ‘I’m sorry.’ Don’t say, ‘I’m busy right now.’ Do say ‘I’ll be with you in just a moment.’ Don’t say, ‘Call me back.’ Do say, ‘I will call you back.’”

I’ve got two candidates for my front office job — one with strong skills, but one with a stronger attitude. Who’s a better bet?

Attitude wins every time, according to Tim Connor, author and sales trainer from Connor Resource Group. “It is easier to teach new employees skills than it is to change their attitudes. Attitudes are developed over a lifetime, and neither you nor I are going to change them in the short time this employee might be with us. By the same token, hire a great attitude, and I guarantee this employee will push you, make you look good, and before you know it they will outgrow the position and want, as well as need, to move on. Everyone wins in the process.” Sooner or later, says Connor, most people with indifferent attitudes, despite their skills, become untrainable. “Avoiding a hiring mistake can save you lots of grief, wasted training time, and negative impact on other employees and or customers. ”

What can you do when you get a patient who smells really bad?

Tough it out, say the doctors on ODs on Facebook. But subtle defensive maneuvers can help. One doctor keeps a bit of Vicks Vapor Rub handy and will discreetly smear a little bit under his nose. For really heavy-duty cases, tell the client you have a cold and will need to wear a mask.


What’s a good general rule of thumb for saying a customer’s name during a sales presentation?

Scott Ginsberg, an author and speaker also known as “That Guy With the Name-tag,” weighed in on the subject. “People enjoy hearing their names more than any word in the dictionary. But there comes a point where customers are thinking to themselves “All right, I got it. You know my name. That’s enough!” Ginsberg imagines what goes on in a customer’s head as a salesperson says his name during a short (seven-minute) transaction:

Nada: “They didn’t even use my name once. I don’t feel valued.”

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Once: “Ahhh … the cashier said ‘Mr. Lynch.’ Man, you gotta love this store.”

Twice: “Whoa! Two times! This salesman has a great memory. Now that’s what I call service!”

Three times: “All right (mild chuckle). I got it. You know my name. Thank you very much.”

Four times: “No, seriously, you don’t have to keep using my name. The first two times were enough.”

Five times: “This is ridiculous. And annoying. I no longer believe you are sincere. And now I’ve become uncomfortable. Please go away.”

One member of my staff is a smart guy — but he’s not exactly “personality-plus” and he often speaks in this numbing monotone that puts people to sleep. How can we jazz up his presentation?

Karen Leland and Keith Bailey, authors and sales consultants, suggest the following exercise:

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  1. Take a short and uncomplicated sentence like ‘Bill isn’t here right now,’ and say it out loud with your normal level of inflection.

  2. Now practice the same sentence, but this time exaggerate all the way up to a 10, like a radio DJ or carnival barker. Stop only when you sound truly obnoxious.

  3. Now say the same sentence again, this time taking your inflection down a couple of notches to a level eight. Say the sentence one more time taking it down to a level five or six. That’s usually the ideal level at which to keep your inflection. If you find people going back to sleep, return to step one and repeat the process.

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Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at [email protected].

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