Atinuke Smith Shares From Her Experience on Managing Difficult Clients in Building a Datina Designs

In over 25 years working as a renowned designer in the fashion industry, Atinuke Smith, better knows as Tinu Smith has encountered the most pleasant and the most challenging of fashion clients.

She is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Datina Designs Fashion House and Fashion School, is one of the widely-known brands that has impacted the industry and satisfied clients from far and near.

She manages Tibile Fashion Retail Outlet stores in Ibadan. The stores showcase her unique clothing line and two brand labels Datina Designs and Tinu Smith.

In this exclusive chat she had with Mauvelli, she shares on how she has been able to navigate the landmine that is ‘customer relations’ in growing her fashion brand. In her words she has met clients so pleasant and whose relationship and patronage she cherished, and she has met others who were rude and got her wondering how she attracted such unpleasant personalities.

What can designers do with unpleasant customer experiences?

Dealing with difficult and unpleasant customers is unavoidable for every business owner, it is an experience we will always have while rendering services to different people. Some customers will ask for impossible deals, request for benefits we cannot approve and prices that can jeopardize the business.

In all, every experience we encounter with different customers as business owners has the potential to teach us how to handle, manage and communicate with difficult customers we encounter on daily basis through our business transactions.

Every fashion business owner needs to understand the impact of good customer service on a business. Customers are the reason we are in business.

If a business ceases to have customers it would eventually go into extinction. This is why we need to constantly learn how to retain pleasant customers and how to manage the difficult ones. We often say customers are always right, which is not necessarily true but which we must embrace if we intend to be in business for the long haul. You have to allow customers to have the last say anytime you feel like giving them a piece of your mind.

There are different categories of difficult customers and your ability to identify them also helps you to know how to manage them.

They usually fall in any of these categories; impatient customer, indecisive customer, vague customer and the unhappy customer. Your ability to recognize which category a customer belongs to would help you identify what the problem is and also be able to proffer solution.

Can you please share with other designers how you managed difficult customers?

I listen to my  customer: It is easier to be defensive when faced with a difficult customer however, the best stance to take is to listen to your customer’s grievances and ask them for what they want.

Listening to a customer gives the feeling that their complaints matter and that you sincerely want to get the issue resolved, and that you are taking sides with him/her against the problem. 

Build rapport with your customers by putting yourself in their shoes. I empathize with them by understanding their pain point and finding a solution. If your customer is complaining about an expectation that was not met, do not view it as a personal attack, apologize and put their need first.

Subconsciously, we react to situations with our body language and designers are no exception. However, you need to watch and control your body language and tone of voice when addressing a customer.

Avoid raising your voice even if a customer raises his or her voice. Let the customer know you are present in the conversation by maintaining  eye contact with them.

Body language speaks a lot, don’t fold your arms. Do your best to stay calm.

Learn the art of negotiation. Learn to give in when you should and learn to take your stand when you should.

Always remember you are dealing with an exception. All your customers are not like this.

In building Datina Designs Fashion House, I have always kept in mind that one negative review can dent the image of my company so I let customer satisfaction be my focus.

How can designers make the most of unpleasant customer experiences?

What I encourage as a designer is this; during and after an encounter with a difficult customer, document your interactions, decisions and agreements. Follow through on phone with messages or calls.

In all, when you encounter a difficult customer you must assume all your other customers are watching your interaction with the customer and this should inform your reactions. Always weigh the consequences of your actions before taking a decision.

Finaly, to retain a customer, sometimes as designers we have to apologize and keep the peace, this is never a wasted effort as it reaffirms your brand as a customer-friendly one and keeps people coming back.


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