Is the customer always right?
‘The customer is always right.’
It’s a lovely old cliché that’s had the global service industry collectively biting its lip ever since Adam had a faulty fig leaf.
As service providers, one of the first things we’re taught is respect for our customers. But when does dogged servitude end and common-sense begin? When is the customer right? And when are they wrong and wrong enough to be put right?
We’ll give you five answers to that shortly. But first, where did ‘The customer is always right,’ actually come from? Who coined this spectacularly fixed phrase?
Blame Harry Selfridge
Way back in 1909, Harry Gordon Selfridge, founder of UK department store chain, Selfridges, adopted ‘The customer is always right’ as his branding mantra. Over time, this mantra infiltrated the minds of business owners across the globe as a true representation of good service until every customer was ‘right.’ Of course, this has proved to be as true as ‘The road is always straight,’ and it’s safe to say a few extremely wrong customers have walked through Selfridges doors over the last hundred years.
Does adopting the phrase actually improve service?
Not at all. If anything it undermines employee morale and leads to worse service. Within the realm of complaints, there are two customer entities: customers with legitimate complaints and customers who just like complaining. If your service staff feel no entitlement to politely question unnecessary customer behaviour, they become disillusioned and restless.
So what can you do to deal with challenging customers? Here are five ways to put wrong customers right in the nicest possible way.
1. Interrogate the complaint
If a customer is being bolshy and unreasonable, don’t say things that feed their ire. “I’m not sure that’s the case, Sir,” might be a statement of truth, but it’s the proverbial red rag for someone itching for an argument. “And why is that, Sir?” or “What exactly is wrong with it?” put the onus back on them to clarify in a less confrontational way. The more you stay calm and the more questions you ask, the more likely they are to run out of steam or, at least, clarify their grievance. Once you know what the real problem is (if there is one) you can deal with the answer.
2. Tell them what their problem is
And no, that’s not the finger in chest version; it’s spelling out their complaint as you now see it. And this is where things can get tricky. If the complaint is justified, you can take immediate action to fix it. If it’s not, you’ve got a small minefield to step through.
3. Tell them they’re wrong without telling them they’re wrong
This assumes the complainant hasn’t already come to the attention of security and been marched out the door. If not, try and provide clear evidence of their misconception – a contract or terms and conditions – and explain in gentle terms why they may have got confused. Infer that it’s an easy mistake to make.
4. Tell them a story
A peeved customer who knows they’re not going to win can sometimes be placated if they know they’re not the only one to make this (incorrect) complaint. If you can, tell them about another similar situation and how that was resolved in the same way.
5. Recommend a solution
If their custom brings value to your business, offer some gesture of goodwill – a discount or free promotional product will often be enough to end the dispute.
Whether its dealing with customers, or developing your skills in your chosen career Foundation Education is here to help. Contact us on 1300 616 197 and one of our friendly career advisors will help get you started.
Take a look at our other articles for some more customer service insights https://www.foundationeducation.edu.au/articles/2017/10/how-deal-obnoxio...