Do you remember the toughest that you’ve ever had? What made them tough? Were the unreasonable? Indecisive? Rude? I remember my toughest customer. She’s demanding, relentless, quick to change her mind and unreasonable. She’s been with me around two years and I suspect that she’ll be with me much longer. She’s my daughter and according to her, all the wants is a drink of water.

Every night, following a selection of books, stories, medicines and more, we put my son and daughter to bed between 7-730pm. My son passes out almost instantly, having spent the day burning somewhere between a million and a billion calories throughout his day of what I like to call “aggressive gymnastics”. My daughter on the other hand begins her nightly request for every conceivable thing she could possibly have, OTHER than sleep. These include books, cuddles, water, a snack, mommy, Dora, a lobster and any number of options that I can’t think of right now.

This might sound like an extreme situation but if you have a business and that business has customers, I’m going to make the bold assumption that you have a lot of customers that aren’t that different from my two year-old daughter. They ask for things you can’t provide and then change their minds and ask for something else that you can’t provide. If you actually do provide that thing, they ask why it took so long, cost so much and wasn’t exactly the way you told them it would be, even if it took the amount of time you told them, cost what you quoted and is exactly like you told them it would be.

I was listening to a comedian the other day (if you haven’t already figured it out, I like stand up comedy) named Gary Gulman and he was talking about consumers. He had this to say;

“No, I didn’t say I wanted music on my phone, I said all the music. No, not all MY music, all THE music. Yes. On my phone. How much am I willing to pay? HAHAHAHAHA. I’m not going to PAY for it.”

Customers want incredible things in extraordinary circumstances for nothing, now. It’s not REALLY their fault. They’ve been conditioned by us. Businesses. We’ve been giving them FREE online storage, and FREE website builders, and FREE music, and FREE movies. Free. Everything. We’ve been giving it to them at a breakneck pace too. The second some cool new company offers some incredible, free product they suddenly have multiple competitors and then over the course of a couple of months or maybe a year, that thing is dead and there’s a brand new thing. We’re then surprised when they won’t wait for something or pay for something. So how do you fix it?

To start, stop. If you want customers to stop being unreasonable, stop giving them the things that make them unreasonable. When my daughter asks for water, I give it to her…once. But she doesn’t need eleventy-hundred sips of water to go to sleep. She needs to shut her eyeballs. If you can’t or don’t want to provide a product or service to a customer, don’t. Once my daughter is in bed I don’t pick here up. There’s no cuddles. There’s no books. It’s bedtime.

Getting in the habit of saying no to customer requests that you can’t or don’t want to grant is an incredibly important step in the development of your business. If you say yes to everyone about everything, you’re not going to make it. Trust me.