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For background I am in the US. We have a big contract with a very large US company and this company we deal with has a lot of different personnel on their team where we are writing their software for their various groups. Each division in this company has their own project manager have you on the customer side. All these various PM's are reasonable to work with and understanding except one of them.

I lead a team of developers and we work VERY hard putting forth a lot of effort and going above and beyond. This one pm is always very rude he'll ask questions and if no one answers he has a fit, but if someone does answer he stops everyone and says "LET ME FINISH MY QUESTION - YOU KNOW WHAT FORGET IT I WILL TALK TO YOUR BOSS". My boss is the CEO of the company.

I am really tired of this rude customer because he made a pretty sly comment after the meeting suggesting he "hold my hand to get my job done". I let it go but it bothered me because he did it in front of others at my company. I didn't like it at all. I know he's the customer and my boss takes the approach of don't bite the hand that feeds you. My boss is also way too relaxed and very unorganized. He admits to it and all this remote work I can tell he's not always there. When I mentioned something to my boss he said "Ya that escalated kind of quick...what can you do that is X for you...".

I wasn't happy with that and maybe I care too much. Most people just seem to say forget about it and move on - and I'd like to. However, it bothers me that this guy said "...let me hold your hand to do your job..." this customer doesn't realize we have other customers, and other projects, and as a development team we are doing everything we can to please the customer. I honestly want to flat out tell him what he said was wrong...

I guess I care about people's perceptions especially on work I do or my team does. That comment personally hurt me because it portrays me as a lazy a** - which I believe I am not.

Do I just let it go and move on? What is your advice?

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    "This one pm is always very rude he'll ask questions and if no one answers he has a fit" Is it a common occurrence that your team doesn't answer this PM's questions?
    – sf02
    Dec 10, 2020 at 19:24
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    @sf02 - We end up being scared to answer or to wait. Sometimes hes still talking ... when we say answer Im talking about phone calls. Of course emails / issues are resolved timely - almost too fast.
    – JonH
    Dec 10, 2020 at 19:25

3 Answers 3

35

I used to tell my people when they had to deal with people like this:

Remember, you only have to deal with these jerks for five minutes, they have to live with themselves their whole miserable lives..

When we had someone who was particularly difficult, I would handle them personally. The goal of anyone like this is to get you to lose your professionalism. Maintain it and you win. A bit of self-effacing humor goes a long way. Someone once told me that I wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed and I said that I could probably use some time on the whetstone.

Kill him with kindness. Perfect the customer service smile, and make it a game when dealing with him. Enjoy his bad mood. The nastier he gets, the bigger your grin, and the more saccharine sweet you get towards him. It's customer service for "Go pound sand".

The reason this works is as follows

  • If he reports you for a warm smile, and a "have a nice day", he's going to look like an idiot
  • He's going to get ticked off that he can't get a rise out of you.
  • You're keeping your own hands clean
  • People have a very hard time maintaining rage if you don't feed it.

35 years of dealing with people on the job and this has never failed.

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    Love this answer thank you.
    – JonH
    Dec 10, 2020 at 22:05
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    Yet another Great Answer™
    – Fattie
    Dec 12, 2020 at 14:06
  • 1
    smile: best way to show one's teeth :D (and how sharp they can be...) Dec 17, 2020 at 11:32
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Do I just let it go and move on? What is your advice?

Let it go. This is your customer and sometimes you end up with a rude customer. If the customer makes a rude comment, ignore it. During any interactions with your customer, keep the focus on the topic(s) of the meeting/conversation. Anything that is off-topic ( unless it is innocent small talk ) you should ignore, pretend it was never said and re-focus the conversation on the actual work being done.

Sure you may not like it, but nothing good will come out of confronting the customer.

this customer doesn't realize we have other customers, and other projects, and as a development team we are doing everything we can to please the customer.

Guess what, this customer and probably all of your other customers don't care. They are paying your company for the service that you provide within the agreed to specifications/timelines. If your company has taken on too many customers where projects are a struggle to complete in a satisfactory manner, the blame lies solely with your company.

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  • Understood - it just hurts that that comment was made when I take care of this customer at all costs. He could of just not made that comment to me and this post wouldn't have been made...but behind all of this is major $$$ so its probably why my boss wont do anything. Boy I look forward to retiring one day.
    – JonH
    Dec 10, 2020 at 19:51
  • And even if the customer wants you to work all day and night on his projects - that's (imo) fine. It is up to you (your company) to say "no" or "only if you pay this higher amount" (in a polite way, of course). When I walk into a shop and order something, I also do not think about how much more work I give to the owner and if he can handle that - I do expect he tells me if he can't handle it (at the moment).
    – guest
    Dec 10, 2020 at 22:51
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    If a customer wants you to work all day and all night on his project, seven days a week, then you work 40 hours a week for them, without rushing.
    – gnasher729
    Dec 11, 2020 at 0:13
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Tell your boss that the customer's treatment of you is untenable.

Simply put, the behaviour of your customer's representative is beyond unprofessional. As such, I would inform your boss that the current situation is untenable and will lead to increased turnover, and he needs to communicate with this customer's company that they either need to replace this person as the interface between your businesses, or your business will fire them as a customer and terminate any contracts you have with them.

If he doesn't do so, begin looking for a new job.

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  • Difficult people are part of the job, and the situation is far from untenable. Simply be professional and de-escalate Jun 28, 2021 at 16:58
  • I personally wouldn't take this approach but I think for some people this would be the right answer. Upvoted for balance.
    – jcm
    Jun 29, 2021 at 8:32
  • Well, while the answer of being able to handle the customer is the best, if you can't, you can't. However, it isn't in your position to tell to fire the customer. Just be honest "I can't handle him".
    – Walfrat
    Jun 29, 2021 at 10:41

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