Nightmare Customer: How Your Fashion Brand Can Best React

Deal with nightmare customers in fashion

Hey Fashion Designers,
With Halloween coming, I thought of my own version of a scary movie: solving daily drama situations in my clients’ fashion shops by dealing with a nightmare customer.

However amazing the brand, there is always a difficult customer who won’t be happy with this or that and who might be challenging to deal with.

To be truly honest with you, my first instinct is eyeroll and get rid of them.

But I can’t. You can’t. Avoiding the problem would backlash in first people stopping buying from your brand and second even worse: bad reviews. So nip it in the bud.

You need to face them and find a way to solve the problem and keep them buying from you.

Dealing with a nichtmare customer: general approach

Step 1: Breathe. Don’t take things personally

Detach yourself from the brand. For this nightmare customer you’re currently dealing with, you just happen to be the person representing the brand. Nothing more! Even if it’s your brand. For these persons, you’re just someone sitting at the label’s desk and who they can address their complaints to.

So keep that in mind and take a step back.

Step 2: listen.

This is a typically human reaction. Put yourself in their shoes! When something just happened to you that made you sad or angry, like most of people on this planet you need the time to complain. You need to dwell on it. You need to get it out of your system.

Just like you sometimes, these customers feel unhappy about something and they need to process their feelings and they need to feel acknowledged.

So it’s not the time to feel sensitive and to get angry about somebody’s tone of voice.

I’ve always been appalled by some customer services asking people to tone it down and to speak to them in a different language while dealing with an angry customer who had a bad experience using their product or their service.

Give them the space to express their anger and their disappointment and stay calm and understanding.

Step 3: identify the issue

Read between the lines. Inside the bundle of emotions, identify what’s the actual problem that may cause these strong reactions.

What’s the real problem here?

Maybe it’s not about that discount they ask for but more about them going through a difficult period in their life and needing to feel special.

Step 4: solve the problem and always go the extra mile

Once you know what the problem is, solve the issue first.

Give them what they need. It’s not necessarily about what they say explicitly. It’s more about understanding their need and finding a solution to match just that.

Then go the extra mile! Maybe say the little sentence that would make their day better. Or give them a gift. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. But truly mean it: according to your means you can offer a scarf, a flower, a glass of fresh orange juice or even just a nice comforting thought but truly mean it. You can also send them a handwritten note afterwards to say you think of them and you can also invite them to a private event.

#1 – The one who doesn’t like anything and criticizes your fashion line

The first time I faced that type of nightmare customer, It was a lady who was offered a scarf from the brand I was working for. She didn’t like the gift at all and wanted to return it. And when she entered the fashion store, she browsed all the articles we had. She had a disapproving face and hated everything she saw. She vented her disappointment and said “I don’t find anything. I can see what’s the idea behind this scarf but I don’t like it. It’s not my style”.

In this particular case, the customer didn’t know the brand at all. I suppose she opened her present and found it ugly. I suppose she was disappointed about feeling misunderstood, didn’t entirely get past that feeling and felt already skeptical when she arrived into the shop.

When she told me her story I nodded and truly listened to what she had to say.

Once she was done expressing her disappointment, I talked in a cheerful reassuring voice and said “I’m going to take care of you”.

Since she didn’t know the brand, I decided to take her on a virtual trip with me and discover the brand together. I presented her the DNA of the brand, what it stood for, what it was famous for (its trousers), how we wanted to make women feel and all we did for that.

At the end of my presentation, she tried on a pair of trousers (the brand’s best sellers). When she had them on, she could truly experience all the promises I made during the brand presentation, about how the garments made the customers feel. She fell in love with the trousers and she decided to get them, although they cost twice as much as the scarf she originally got as a gift.

For the extra mile, I noticed a tiny default at the back of the trousers. I showed it to her but she didn’t mind and wanted to get the trousers anyway. I told her I wanted her to look amazing and that this detail could distract from the overall look. I got another shop to deliver her brand new trousers without the default.

She was very happy in the end.

#2 – The grumpy customer who had a really bad day and takes it out on you

Again, this happens. Sometimes people have a horrible day and take it out on other people. It’s not fair but unfortunately these are the inconvenience of interacting with other human beings.

Especially in this case, breathe and do take a huuuuuuuge step back. It’s not you that this nightmare customer is angry at. I always like imagining them having a really bad day with a series of little catastrophies, you know the ones when your kid spills his breakfast on you right before you step out of your house, you miss your subway station, you arrive late at a very important meeting, your delivery was made to the wrong address and to finish your boss tells you he’d appreciate if you arrived on time. See that kind of day? That one!

It helps me sympathize and understand why my customers are so grumpy when they arrive in front of me. It also helps me find the strength to go out of my way to make their day better.

While they explain to you what’s wrong with what they’re trying on, you might think that their reactions are completely disproportionate. But keep thinking about their bad day. Be gentle and patient and surround them with love.I remember a customer like that. She was looking for a top but she complained at any top I offered her to try on. The one top felt too synthetic, the other one in natural fabric felt too warm. But I patiently kept showing her new alternatives. And she ended up telling me that she was very sick and she was going through surgery. After many fittings, she ended up finding something she felt really comfortable in.

She ended up buying one top and a scarf to go with.

In the end she thanked me for my patience and for my kindness and she kept coming back ever since.

#3 – The nightmare customer who tries everything on and doesn’t buy anything

Have you ever experienced that kind of customers? They’re like what they called a tornado in this Hey Iris video.

I know it’s frustrating to clean up the giant mess after this type of nightmare customer but again, don’t take this personally. It’s part of your job. Stay calm and remain cheerful and professional.

Work with her. Provide an honest feedback on the outfit your customer tries on and chose your words carefully. Position yourself as an expert. If it’s not too flattering for her shape, try to understand what she liked about that outfit and find another option that matches her need and that suits her better.

I once had two of them at the same time inside a store. Needless to say that I was overwhelmed! Everything kept piling up, I was running up and down the stairs to pick up the sizes they wanted and trying hard to clean up while they were trying the outfits on.

They ended up buying for $700 worth of clothes each. This was a lucky day because sometimes they don’t immediately buy. In that case, I offer them to write down the styles that really suited them on the back of the shop’s business card. I also recommend them to call to ensure that the outfits they tried on are still available. It’s a subtle way to create a feeling of emergency. I often saw them come back a few days later to get the outfit.

#4 – The nightmare customer with self esteem issues

It can happen that the customers you welcome in the store are in a really bad place in their lives. Maybe they lost their job, maybe they don’t feel attractive enough after a massive weight gain.

The one day that personally really annoyed me was when this lady was so down low that she kept believing I was a sleazy saleswoman who would say anything to her just to make sales.

I took a step back and tried to understand where this nightmare customer was coming from. I reassured her on the fact that I won’t force anything on her. While she was trying the outfits in the fitting room, she finally admitted that she’d been out of a job for a while and she had issues to find a man in her life. Going shopping was her way to bring a little joy into her life.

First I reassured her and told her that I would help her find a beautiful outfit to make her feel good. I also comforted her by saying that she wouldn’t have to buy if she didn’t feel like it and she could try as many outfits as she wanted. Once the trust was established, we sorted out three outfits. I gave her my preferences and told her the plus and minus sides of each outfit while pointing out the occasions on which she could wear each item.

She ended up buying a pair of trousers. When she paid, I told her she made an excellent choice and I emphasized all the advantages she had with these trousers. Plus I also added “You will see, everything will be better”.

When she left the store, she felt happy and confident. Actually she was so happy about that experience that 30 minutes later, she came back to show me another top she bought in another store to match the trousers she just bought from me.

#5 – The nightmare customer who can’t decide what he/she wants

The indecisive customer can be so confusing and make your job very difficult. 

I mean, what does this nightmare customerwant????

Distance and patience are gold here. You need to understand what is the reason for your customer’s hesitation. You might also want to step up as a style expert again. For each outfit your customer tries on, present her with clear pros and cons as well as occasions on which they can wear it. Feel free to say what you absolutely like about the outfit worn by your customer.

When they’re done with the fitting, take the lead. Sort the options out and eliminate the ones that didn’t feel right for her. Put the remaining styles next to each other in front of her. Summarize the pros and cons of each. Try to find out why she still hesitates.

Sometimes the customers I had wanted an approval from their closed ones: their partner, their girlfriend or even their children. I sometimes offered to take a picture and send them to the people. In some cases, I already knew the husband’s tastes so I added it as a positive criteria on the related outfits while summarizing the pros and cons. A “besides this outfit has a particularly nice skinny fit” can really help your customer decide if you know her husband is in that kind of shapes.

While she paid, I reassured her that she made a good choice, summarized all the plus sides of the article she picked and that she couldn’t do anything wrong anyway because she had 30 days to return the article if anything was wrong.

With all those examples, I hope you found some keys to deal with your own type of nightmare customer and transform your relationship into a more harmonious one.


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