Now, the title of this article alone must seem absurd (What?! No, I’ve always read that the customer is ALWAYS right!). But, before you dismiss this as totally ridiculous, hear it out.
Sometimes, the customer isn’t right. Period. However, every customer deserves to have their issues heard. (See? Sounds much less crazy in context.)
The phrase “The customer is always right” dates back to 1909, when Harry Gordon Selfridge, a London department-store owner, coined the term. It’s a phrase that is supposed to convince employees to always provide the best service possible while simultaneously convincing customers that they will receive impeccable service somewhere.
It’s time to leave this phrase in the past. Sometimes, customers are just plain wrong. Whether they’ve had a bad day and are just being rude for the sake of it, whether they’re trying to score free stuff, or whether they’re just plain spiteful, there are plenty of instances in which the customer is not right. But how do you handle that situation?
If you’re a manager, you want to make sure that you’re hearing your employees out when they come to you with a problematic customer. Simply telling them that “the customer is always right” isn’t going to help the situation- it’s just going to make your reps feel like you don’t care about them. Try to gather all of the information that you can about what the customer’s issue is, and help brainstorm ways to solve that problem. If the customer is just being nasty, then it’s your job as a manager to step in and help de-escalate the situation. Do your best to appease the customer without doing so at the expense of your employees, but know when it’s time to bid a customer farewell.
If you’re a customer service representative, know when to get your manager involved. As always, you want to strive to provide the best service possible. Even if you think the customer is wrong right off the bat, make sure you get the full picture before rushing to judgment. Make sure to maintain a friendly, calm demeanor, even if the customer can’t. If you see the situation is escalating with no resolution in sight, contact your supervisor to step in and help resolve things.
If you’re a customer, remember that when you call, email, or chat a customer service agent, there is a real human being on the other end of that interaction. Regardless of how frustrated you may be with the product/service you received, try to remain calm and courteous. Customer service representatives are there to help you, and the kinder you are, the more likely you are to quickly achieve a positive resolution.
No matter what position you’re in, taking the time to fully hear the other side out, and remaining calm and courteous throughout the entire process will serve you well. Even though the customer may not always be right, you can always provide the best service.