Is the Customer Always Right?

positive and negative signs


One thing I have heard many times over the years is, “The customer is always right!” Now what may come as a shock to some is this just isn’t always true. The way this should really be rephrased is “The customer always has the right to a respectful and well thought out plan of action.”

What I mean by this is sometimes we mess up, and sometimes we need to let the customer think we messed up, whether we did or not, but in either case long explanations or excuses, apologies, monetary discounts, or outright groveling are not what the customer is looking for when lodging a complaint.

All of the above are used far too often and usually end up in the customer being more upset, cancelling services, or worse yet talking all kinds of stuff about you or your business to people in the community, in reviews, or on web forums. These negative comments can haunt a company for years and many times could have been avoided if the customer was treated respectfully and given a plan of action.

The respect part may be the harder of the two especially if you have a vocally proficient customer, also known as a yeller.  In these situations it is best to remain calm and listen. Do not rush to a conclusion or try to make excuses, this will only further flame the fire. Let the customer know you understand, and repeat back to them the issue they are having.

Next, formulate a plan of action starting with what you will first do to take care of their issue. The conversation may go something like this.

“Mr. Customer I completely understand the issue you are having and can see how this is affecting your business. Your internet is currently not working and you are unable to send and receive email messages or access any websites. What I’m going to do, is immediately see if I am able to access your system through our remote tools, which allows us to immediately begin working on your issue. If I am unable to access your systems, I will check with your internet provider to see if there are any outages occurring on that line, and if we are still unable to fix the issue we will take further action from there. If you would like, I can text you updates through this process so you are aware of what we are doing to resolve your issue at any given time?

In the above example we gave the customer respect, a plan of action and a path for follow-up. In this case like many, it is unnecessary to apologize for the situation. The customer is not looking for an apology, instead they want to know when their issue will be resolved and what you are doing to get it resolved. If at the end, when all is complete you feel an apology or monetary compensation is due based on the actions of yourself or your staff, then by all means, but in this way it is on your terms and not based on the demands or anger of the customer.

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