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In the world of service, you will find that some customers are not always honest in their feedback. This is a fact of life, and as an entrepreneur, you need to learn how to deal with it.

Do not take all negative feedback seriously! If a customer gives you constructive negative feedback, thank them for taking the time out of their day to help you improve your services by pointing out areas where they feel your service offering can be improved. Ignore destructive negative feedback; most of it is just blackmail and not constructive criticism at all!

There's nothing worse than someone that blames you for something that's not your fault, and then tells the world how you are a terrible person.

As if that is not enough, such a customer decides to go to the google play store, app store, or even social media and make a review of you, insinuating how terrible you are. Customers that normally go to such extremes are often those that hope to gain public sympathy as opposed to being genuine to themselves. Some seek a refund they claim they deserve even when they clearly do not deserve it. Depending on the circumstances, some do genuinely deserve the refund and I can only advise that as an honest company, you do make the refund. But then, there are those that simply ask for a refund even when they clearly have no reasonable grounds other than entitlement. When you decline to offer them a refund, they resort to blackmail. This is when customers blackmail their way to the hearts of readers.

Well, this happened to me, and here is my story;

I met this client and I became their sort of consultant friend. I initially accepted to give them free consultancy as a friend. Later in the due course of the engagement, they came to realize that they needed me closer since my insights were quite valuable. So, this client actually requested that I join her board of advisors (not an official board but just a couple of mates she had lined up to help her think her project through) She asked me to join so I could attend various meetings with her so we continue sharing ideas as I guide her on how to streamline operations and help prepare for funding and lobbying funders. I accepted this extra duty at a cost of 1m shillings to at least help me cater to expenses such as fuel as I move from place to place attending their meetings. My car was a monstrous 3000-cc guzzler and I definitely needed fuel.

Deep inside me, I believed she was doing a genuine job of transforming society and by being part of her project, I knew it was a way for me to participate in some voluntary initiative that positively impacts society. So, I told her to just provide me with my fuel and whenever she needed me, I was to do my best to avail myself. Business went on as usual, I attended meetings, and sometimes I could even drive this client back home after our meetings as she sat in the co-driver seat telling me lots of interesting stories. We became close that if you found us, you would think we were a couple (I was definitely single and she knew it, but speaking for myself, I only considered this person a friend) though along the way, I think this client got other thoughts and feelings and if she did for reasons I best know, I definitely stuck to a business relationship. Like some NGO founders, she had this bold vision of creating a money-making door for herself that she said would pull her out of poverty. She planned to gather a few local women and children and position them as beneficiaries for her programs and use them to ask for funding from various entities. I asked her why her programs would focus on women and children, she boldly said that she preferred local women and children because she could easily line them up and influence them to do what she wants as opposed to men that are quite bold and might question her moves thereby causing problems with donors. She actually believed that if she were to work with men as beneficiaries in her project, they would only have to be uneducated lay men since those, she could handle easily. Well, like any cunning businesswoman, she had her game plan laid out in her head on how to manipulate her beneficiaries and how to tickle the donors. She just majorly needed me to guide her on how to professionalize her NGO so that funders make sense of her NGO. So, through various engagements, I focused on addressing the issue of professionalizing the systems of work so that lobbying funds can be easy. No donor wants to work with unprofessional people. But the motive of her NGO stayed stuck up in my mind. Based on her confession, I knew she was only in it for the money while disguising herself as a passionate social activist that teaches skills to communities and advocates for environmental protection.

So, one time, she asked that I help her to get funders. Since I now knew her intentions (she was focusing on money-making but disguised as a social activist that needs donors), I told her that if I were to help her to lobby for funding, it would have to come at a cost. I elaborated that we had to go into a contract and sign for my services and my remuneration in the form of revenue sharing. I asked for 60:40 with the latter for me. I told her that lobbying funders is a full-time duty and requires time and resources so we needed a revenue-sharing agreement for me to proceed. That means I could not afford to do it voluntarily as I bring in funding for her but I getting nothing. Having said that, I eventually noticed a decrease in calls for meetings and more. As a matter of fact, we had planned a trip outside the country, where we would go together to attend some environmental conference but she left me behind. I did not care much because I could travel anywhere if I wanted to, but I was shocked that she was becoming that cold so fast simply because I asked for revenue sharing. She literally expected me to offer services beyond my voluntary scope for her to gain financially while I get nothing.

So, after a while without communication, she suddenly reached out and asked me to help her to draft some project on paper to lobby for money from some organization. She assured me that the project would fetch her money and she would share it with me. Clearly, this was not the scope of my voluntary work that I had volunteered for but I promised her that I would look into it. But without a contract of revenue sharing, I was still concerned but I went ahead and brainstormed the project with her. To my surprise, she held the event and I only saw updates on her status. I got no notification of revenue or funding and I got nothing paid to me. As a volunteer, I lost interest in her vision and the habit of taking me for granted. Most importantly, I lost interest because I realized, she was not as passionate about social or environmental change as I had hoped when I accepted to volunteer. She was in it just for the money by positioning herself as a passionate and honest lady. She enjoyed projecting herself as an ardent churchgoer and often posted scriptures to gain people’s confidence. I was honestly blown away by her ability to transform her identity to the extent of paying a TV host at a station to host her.

One very good afternoon, she reaches out to me (I think a little broke) and asks me if I could consider refunding her the 1 million since I never got her any funders. I reminded her that she was not entitled to any refund because the 1 million was not in any way connected to getting funders but rather to compensate for my travel expenses in the various engagements, I was involved in. I reminded her how she successfully did some projects based on my input and yet she sidelined me whenever it materialized financially. Having boldly shown her that I knew what she was doing, she boldly tells me how she was broke and just needed money. So, I told her that If I were to give her any money, it would simply be out of courtesy as a friend but not because she deserved a refund. She acknowledged it but then greedily suggested I send her 800k (80% of the one million) so that I help her dire broke situation. I told her that she was so entitled and I could not help her. So, she then asked that I send her anything I can just out of goodwill to save her broke situation. I clearly know what it means to be broke because I have been through it. So, I told her that I would see what to do for her just as a friend. Conversations resumed to normal. Saying “hi” to each other, sending me invitations for church gatherings, and so forth and sometimes asking about my promise of getting her some little money. Coincidentally, I was often short on cash whenever she asked. Sometimes she was curious to know if I was seeing someone (totally unrelated to business) and I often joked about how terrible relationships can be. Conversations got so personal and life went on as I brushed off her personal questions since I am quite objective in my direction with people.

To my dismay, as time went on, one day, she asked me how far I had gone with refunding her. That is when I lost it and I had to blow her off because I had made my position clear that I was only to give her money out of courtesy and I had no obligation to refund her for time and services I offered. This is when she threatened to expose me for not refunding her. She thought I would be moved. I was not moved a single inch. I am not moved by blackmail. She then went silent. Several years down the road, she resurfaced and put up a post claiming how I conned her of 1 million yet I did nothing for her or the company. She even got some friends to post claiming things that were never brought to my attention about a past project of mine (at least to the best of my knowledge and I only hoped that if this other person’s claims were true, that person should have decency to approach me back then to assist her than wait to put her frustration on a random post after years of silence because I was honestly hearing things for the first time). Anyway, back to this “client” of mine; When I got notified of the post, I burst out into laughter (definitely heartbroken though) and the best I could do was to watch how easily some people believed her. Those that were genuinely concerned, reached out to me in private and asked me. Those that resent me for no reason or are gullible enough just went on to comment and share the post without bothering to know my side of the story. This I assume gave her a great level of satisfaction. One client of mine landed on this random post and asked me about it. I asked the client if he had ever paid me for anything and I failed to deliver. He acknowledged that I have always delivered. We both laughed it off and life went on. But I was blown away by how bold some clients can be, to blackmail service providers or blame service providers without reason. Whereas this affects a person, it is also okay to appreciate that some people are made differently and handle situations differently. In my case, whatever motivated this person to do that, only God knows. I already let it go. If I knew that she genuinely deserved a refund, I would lose nothing by being humble and asking her to wait for a refund. But her dishonesty in narration showed me how evil people can be to go miles to prove a point.

I have friends who genuinely owe me money and I have those to whom I genuinely owe money (in and out of the country). I can not run away from the fact that I owe them money and no matter how long it takes, I am always dedicated to religiously paying them back even when they think I have forgotten about it. These are people I treasure and I could do any favor for them because we know what is between us. That is integrity. I have friends that I once hoped to start various businesses with (back then in my early days as an entrepreneur when I was still gaining experience) and the ventures failed. I made myself a promise to refund these friends all their finances. Among them was a friend who was out of the country and she got so frustrated but I wrote that promise on my heart. I owned it up because that is the circle of an entrepreneur. It is about integrity, not blackmail.

So, amidst all this, from my own story and experience with this supposed “client” that went ballistic on me, it is very important for every entrepreneur to know, that when it comes to customer feedback, remember: Never let a customer’s blackmail give you sleepless nights especially if your conscience is clear. We all know that some customers are just looking for a free meal, or for someone to do their dirty work for them. But don't let those "customers" get you down—if they're not happy with your service, it's probably because they're just trying to make themselves feel better by taking you down a peg or two.

As I said earlier, there are different types of negative feedback: constructive and destructive. Constructive negative feedback helps service providers improve their service offerings by highlighting areas where improvements need to be made. Destructive negative feedback does not help providers improve their services; instead, it is used as blackmail.

Do you know what's the best thing to do about destructive negative feedback? It's that you don't have to give it any attention! Never say anything back to a customer who is just trying to blackmail you into giving them free stuff. Just focus on your customers who are honest with their feedback and want to help you improve your business. Those are the customers that matter. It happened to me and it is probably happening in your business too or probably will happen to you in a different shade (not necessarily the same as mine) but whatever it is, just know that this article is intended to guide you on how to handle such “customers.” Always remember this article whenever you feel unfairly attacked by a customer. Some customers will always give honest and constructive negative feedback but some will opt for blackmail. Always ignore the latter and focus on customers that matter and those are the ones that offer constructive negative feedback and those that offer positive feedback.

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