The Customer is NOT Always Right But They Are Always The Customer!

It’s easy to get frustrated when customers do or say silly things.  We’ve all experienced it…the customer who ignores the line and demands to speak with a manager immediately, the shopper who asks the price of an item even though the label is clearly in view, or the person that says “but can’t you make an exception?”  

Sometimes customers are rude, sometimes their complaints are completely without merit, and sometimes their demands border on ridiculous. Those situations can be exasperating.  However, we need to remember that our business needs customers.  

The customer is NOT always right, but they are always the customer.  There’s never a valid reason to treat customers badly.  Even the most obnoxious person should be treated in a kind but firm manner.  Why?  First, because they’re a customer!  Second, other shoppers will likely be watching how we handle the disruption, and they’ll judge our response.  Never lose your cool!

Of course, there should be a balance in your business.  Overly demanding customers or those who try to take advantage of you should never be allowed to trample over you.  Watch out particularly for those who say, “But can’t you make an exception?”  Most people who use that manipulative phrase tend to think the world revolves around them.  However, there’s no need to be unkind, rude or sarcastic (however tempting that may be). Instead, if the request is clearly unreasonable, you should simply tell them “I’m sorry, we’re not able to do that.”  You may even decide to refer them to a different supplier who may be better suited to help.

Here's a more detailed blueprint on how to handle customer complaints: Before you take ANY action, take time to calm down. Don’t respond immediately because it’ll likely be based on emotion rather than reason. Once you’re calm, it’s vital to understand why the customer is unhappy. Don’t guess or read between the lines, simply invite them to tell you the facts. This helps to avoid misunderstandings, which are at the root of most customer challenges.

The best way to interact with a nightmare customer is by phone, or in person.  It’s very difficult with written correspondence to detect their tone of voice, and often that leads to misinterpretation and further upset by either or both parties involved. The majority of customers will be surprisingly courteous on the phone, especially if you make every effort to come across in a kind, reasonable way.

Start the conversation by apologizing for any misunderstanding, and remind them that you strive for great customer service, but sometimes mistakes are made. Ask them what would be a positive way to resolve the situation. If the request is reasonable and in your power to grant it, do it, and you’ll be able to move on with your life.

Never ever lose your temper with a customer.  This accomplishes nothing positive, and will likely damage the relationship forever. This principle includes ‘passive aggression’ where the words are stated calmly, but the words themselves are inflammatory. Don’t fall into that trap! You might feel better, but occasionally you’ll come across a customer who is clearly mentally unstable. They’re irrational, and can’t be reasoned with.  In such cases, it’s best to simply offer a full refund, apologize for any misunderstanding (even if you were in the right), wish them well, and move on. If they try to cause problems at a later point, such as via a complaint on a public forum, you can quickly squash the matter by indicating that you gave the customer a full refund as final settlement of the matter, which they accepted.

Although it’s tempting to fight refund requests that don’t seem legitimate, it’s more important to deal with customers in a way that shows you have the long-term success of your business in view. By denying a refund you open yourself to their negative comments online, a claim at the Better Business Bureau, or via some other public forum. The impact of those types of complaints can dissuade others from buying from you in the future, so keep the big picture in mind.

If it’s obvious that someone has taken advantage of you, your product, or service, make a note of their details in a spreadsheet or in your customer management system, and don’t allow future orders from them. It’s your business, and you have every right to serve whomever you choose.

Andrew Lock, is a maverick marketer and author of the new book, “Walt Disney’s Way: How to Build a Better Business Using the Magical Marketing Strategies of Walt Disney,” available on Amazon.

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