How Artists Can Deal with Difficult Customers

Dealing with customers is usually a positive part of your business. But what happens when things go wrong?


Shopping at an art fair


ABI shares some tips for heading off and responding to aggravating customer issues:

Negative comments. “That’s easy – I could make that.” “My son takes better photographs that those.” Have you heard degrading comments, or offhand remarks from shoppers that hurt, or just made you mad? Most people are very nice, but there are always a few tactless folks out there. Don’t let that ruin your day.

Rise above any temptation to respond to negative comments; they are welcome to their opinion. Rather, seek out those people who have positive or constructive comments about your work. You will surely hear a lot of compliments, but some customers have suggestions that may provide new ideas or even improvements. Pay attention to those people who have something to add that may make your collection better or more appealing. Sometimes acting on a suggestion from a shopper can turn into a bestseller!

Haggling. At a retail event, there are always people who want to try to talk you into a lower price. Of course, that would never happen in a store or at a doctor’s office, but many feel that artists are fair game – and it’s insulting. But if you expect this to happen at times and plan ahead, you can give an easy answer that defends your price and clearly turns them down.

If someone is buying a number of pieces of your work and you choose to offer a discount, or free shipping, then do what you feel is right for you. Likewise, you may have a policy to give repeat collectors special pricing. But these terms are for you to offer to customers as you see fit.

Plan for hagglers, and be ready with an answer for those who ask for a discount. A simple, ”I’m sorry, I don’t discount my work” can be very effective.

Customer complaints. This category includes everything from shipping problems to breakage and repairs, and other issues. Everyone in business has customers who are unhappy at times, and you should be prepared to deal with them.

Plan ahead to address common complaints that customer might have, so that you can resolve them quicky. Do you have a return policy? Do you offer guarantees? Do you provide repairs on your work, whether free or for a charge? Share this information on your website and in the information you give to customers at the time of purchase – it can help you avoid problems before they surface.

If you have provided care information up front such as instructions to dry clean a garment, or use silver polish on a necklace, or if you recommend a particular type of picture hanging system, you have headed off questions and complaints that might have come up.

Still, there will be times that you must deal with a customer who isn’t happy with their purchase. Remember, excellent customer service is expected these days. Many times, bending over backwards to make sure that your customers are really happy can pay off, with future sales and testimonials forthcoming.


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