Is the Customer Always Right?

Is the Customer Always RightWe’ve all heard the mantra, “the customer is always right.” You and your business are constantly geared toward making customers happy and keeping them coming back. Like many other mantras, however, that mentality can go too far.

In most circumstances, it makes sense to focus on customer satisfaction. Still, there are times when this attitude may cost you more than you expect. In situations like the ones below, “the customer is always right” doesn’t apply. In order to keep your business running smoothly, you need to take steps to keep problem customers in check. Here’s some examples of a few times when the customer is wrong:

When They Abuse Employees

People are generally kind and polite, but they can get hostile when they feel like their needs aren’t being met. Putting a thorough customer service process in place prepares your reps to address issues before they become problems. It can also help them in handling angry callers. It is extremely important to stay positive throughout the interaction. Every now and then, however, the rudeness, abuse or even threats toward employees go too far.

This is one time when the customer is wrong, so don’t reward the behavior. Allow reps to send hostile customers to their supervisors, or to politely end the conversation if it gets too heated. Whatever you do, don’t sell out a good employee by forcing them to stay on the line. You’ll only alienate the person, leading them to provide worse service over time.

When They Make Unreasonable Demands

Online retailers such as CJ Pony Parts often let customers swap out parts for a new one if it was faulty or damaged in shipping. Some companies might even give something away as an extra bonus to make up for a delayed order. However, the customer in question would be way out of line if they expected a lifetime of free parts because of one minor thing going awry.

To address unreasonable customer demands, put a customer service policy in place, and put it in writing. Include rules about returns and exchanges, as well as contact information for customer service and technical assistance. Sadly, there are people out there who are looking to profit from companies who go out of their way to please customers. Respect your customers’ wishes as much as you can, but don’t let them take advantage of you.

When They’re Looking for a Fight

A Southwest Airlines passenger had a history of writing a complaint letter after every single flight. Finally, one of her letters landed on the desk of CEO Herb Kelleher. Despite a sharp focus on stellar service, Kelleher was willing to write a farewell letter to a customer who would never be happy no matter what the company did.

It’s difficult to lose business, but it’s important to acknowledge that some customers aren’t worth constant concessions. Take every complaint seriously; however, customers who complain incessantly take up valuable time and resources and, in all likelihood, don’t invest enough to make a difference to your business. Sometimes you have to let the never-happy customer go, and focus your energy on customers who appreciate what you do for them.

By all means, meet your customers’ needs, but not at the expense of your employees or other customers. The savvy business owner will operate as if the customer is always right, but act appropriately when they’re clearly wrong.

Scott Huntington is a writer, reporter, and blogger. He currently lives in PA and with his wife and son, writing about social media, the workplace and beyond. Follow Scott at @SMHuntington