We’ve all heard the saying that life is just different in a small town. It seems to move at a more leisurely pace, and places emphasis on the community as a whole. Everyone knows everyone, and even everyday business interactions are peppered with social connections. These qualities are what give small towns their charm.
For city clerks, however, managing their duties within a smaller community sometimes comes with a unique set of challenges. Here are the common high-maintenance customers you may see throughout your week:
- The “My Way” Customer—These are those tough residents who never seem to pay on time, always question their bills, and generally make you feel like you are pulling teeth with every interaction. Despite their behavior, these customers will be the first to address any mistakes on your part as quickly and loudly as possible. Luckily, “My Way” customers are few and far between, and while they test the limits of your customer service talents, you just have to stick with your established policies and let the aggravation roll off your back.
- The “Set in My Ways” Customer—These residents are the ones who are so resistant to change, any deviation in your billing will be met with the wailing and gnashing of teeth. Maybe you upgraded your system, so the bills they receive look different. Maybe their bills show that small rate increase that was widely publicized and voted on. Regardless, these residents will treat any change from what they are used to as worthy of an uproar. These customers require patience, and when something does change, you can avoid your own personal headaches by being prepared to walk them through what’s different and why.
- The “Right Now!” Customer—This customer, whether he or she has a billing question or utility problem, expects an answer now, no matter the time of day…even on holidays. They’ll see no problem calling you at home, flagging you down at a restaurant, or zeroing in on you at church. They will probably test the limits of your patience, so you would benefit from crafting a standard response when your professional life encroaches on your personal life. A “Why don’t you come by the office on Monday, and we’ll get it sorted right out,” may diffuse them when used consistently.
Overall, the best way for city clerks to deal with small town quirks, while still loving their communities, is to remember that diplomacy is key. Those tough customers are still your neighbors and friends, and their eccentricities are what makes your town a fun, colorful place.