Sales & Marketing

The customer isn't always right – tips for balancing customer services

4 min read

20 October 2016

Former special projects journalist

Despite the old customer services adage, it turns out that maybe the customer isn’t always right after all.

New research from I Am Ava has revealed that even the customers themselves don’t necessarily agree with the rule. So Ava contacted three customer service experts to find out how to find the right balance in customer services.

(1) Your customer services could get worse

If you insist the customer is always right and that your frontline employees have to put up with anything that is thrown at them, you will make them feel devalued and damage their morale. In the long run, this could be more damaging to a company than just standing up to a difficult customer.

Michael Brown, author of “Fresh Customer Services”, explained: “The key to running a successful operation is believing in, and practicing, the concept that customers should always come second.

“Happy employees naturally provide superior customer service. So, thank your employees every day, let them be involved in the planning of the work affecting them, and treat them with the utmost respect and courtesy. Even in times when consumers are looking to do things quickly and cheaply, they will notice… and they will come back for more!”

(2) It could take you from service to servile

Your business exists to provide customer services, not to bend to all customers’ whims. You need to ask yourself if the customer in question is right for you

Chris Simpson, a consultant with Business Doctors, said: “Something I have discovered is that a lot of the time when we’re having conversations about whether the customer should be allowed to call the shots, it turns out the customer is entirely wrong for the business.

“The mentality of ‘the customer is always right’ leads businesses over the edge from service into servile, and in the long run isn’t good for the supplying business or the customer.

“Of course, the customer should always be listened to, but once you have heard and understood the key questions you need to ask yourself; ‘are these the right customers for me?’ Size, shape, needs, demands, location and culture are all important characteristics of customers and if you really know who you serve best you will only be working for customers.”

(3) It can drain your limited resources

For smaller businesses, it is common to be stretched thin – you have a finite amount of resources. It makes sense to focus on customers who are more aligned with your brand in the first place and more likely to become repeat customers.

Benjamin Dyers, CEO of Powered Now, explained that it can be a tricky balancing act to master: “The truth is difficult customers exist, you’ll come across them from time to time. However, it has to be said that most people are reasonable and if you’re living up to your customer-centric values they can normally be dealt with easily. When we screw up, and we all do, my mantra is apologise, fix things and if needed, offer some compensation. But not at any cost.

“If you run a small business then unreasonable customers are costly. The time needed to deal with an unreasonable customer is a cost most of us simply cannot contain – they are a distraction. It’s a tricky balance to get right, as there can never be an excuse for being rude to customers.”