Customer Satisfaction: Never, ever give up on the 'impossible to please' customers

July 18, 2012

Some customers can be “impossible to please” (IP), but keep in mind, when open to the public, a home building company is exposed to all personalities within the public.  After all, that idiot that cut you off on the highway this morning lives somewhere!  This means, on rare occasions you will sell a home to one of these IP customers.  A home builder that builds 20 homes per year statistically should experience an IP once every 2-3 years.  A home builder building 300 homes per year will likely see 8-10 IP customers per year.  The question is: What should be the strategy for these IP customers?  Here is our abbreviated strategy: Do Everything Possible, and as Winston Churchill said, “Never, Ever Give Up,” and here is why.

Years ago, Toyota did a study and found there were indeed 2-3% of customers that were unwilling to do repeat business even if their sales, delivery, and customer services were all excellent.  On the other hand, this same study revealed there were also 2% of customers who are “impossible to upset” (IU) and would conduct repeat business even if they had a bad sales, delivery, and customer service experience.  In other words, the net effect of IP minus the IU is 1%, or less!  Isn’t it interesting how often we talk about the impossible to please versus the impossible to upset customers?

More importantly, we know that if a home building company develops a culture of “giving up” on any customer, then this slippery slope label claims more like 8-10% of their customers.  Builders with an IP, “give up” or “write ‘em off” culture are often too quick to put customers into an IP category and then almost all personality conflicts become labeled as IP.  Therefore, companies with an IP category, have a very difficult time achieving 85+% Willingness to Refer rating, or more importantly a 66+% Customer Enthusiasm rating.  It is leadership’s responsibility to ban the IP customer label/mentality from the culture, to set the pace for the pack, and to NEVER, EVER give up on ANY customer – regardless of how “impossible to please” they may be.  For if you do, it is likely you will sacrifice and additional 5-10% of what could be great company advocates, active referrers, and several future referral sales. 

The management meeting question of the week: “Does our company have an informal 'impossible to please' customer category or mentality?  If so, how can this category or our tolerance for this category be eradicated from the company?” 

Charlie Scott has over 30 years of industry experience as a home builder, author, columnist, speaker, consultant, National Housing Quality Award Examiner and Hall of Fame member. Charlie has worked with over 200 of the nation’s best home building companies. He has been through five major industry downturns and during 2008 to 2011 housing depression, he gave away over 1,000 determined donkeys toys as encouragement. He can be reached at