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Are customers always right?

With the increasing digital market world and feeling of greater competition and reviews, there is a temptation to feel you should always put the customer on a pedestal. Rightly or wrongly, everyone is convinced that you cannot do without their business and will go to any lengths to get it and retain it. They have heard the old adage that the customer is always right and apply it to anything and everything. But, Is the customer always right and should you?

Looking initially at this from the other side, we all appreciate good customer service. I hate bad customer service as much as the next man. My stress levels rise when I’m being put on hold, I despise wasting my day listening to regurgitated versions of Greensleeves. When I get through, I don’t wish to be told to ring a different number I want to speak to the right person and I want to do it now.

Apathetic and disinterested voices down the other end make me angry before I start. I don’t want to be asked how I am today by someone who obviously doesn’t give two hoots and more often than not does not listen to the answer before launching into their patter.

I do however want to feel like I matter and my perspective is being considered.

All that said, there are the customers who are not always right. There are the ones who buy a product and declare your product is disgusting because they don’t like it how tempting to tell them it is their fault for having chosen it in the first place.

Deliveries are examples of a service that can cause great disharmony between a company and their customer. We all lead busy lives and not everyone has neighbours they trust or garages that it is safe to leave parcels in. Many homes are empty midweek. Despite this, companies have to work with the postal systems available to them ( unless they are amazon and have their own). Customers have been known to demand free gifts when a delivery was half an hour later than expected. London tube strikes may be irrelevant to some. Perhaps my favourite was a lady who, two hours distance away and just as the van was leaving one morning, told her order company she wanted her order within the hour and that she didn’t care how far it was away. That was not her concern.

With any disagreement it is always helpful to try and be sure that you have truly listened to the others perspective and tried to put yourself in their shoes. Most reasonable businesses, will try and ‘go the extra mile’ for good feedback. There does have to be an end-point to that though and that mile cannot become a marathon. Our advice would be that there does come a time where companies have take a stand. Businesses have to weigh up potential risks and benefits of calmly and politely explaining to customers their terms and conditions and why they feel they do not agree. This should always be in a polite and non-emotional way.

I understand that when something goes wrong, people are angry. They may feel they have the right to. But your staff also have rights and you must also protect them from abuse or you may face challenge from them.

Having a clear complaints policy and guiding unhappy customers towards that can be supportive and allow a cooling off. More people are prepared to vent verbally than at a later date in a typed form.

As regards reviews – Responding to customers positive and negative reviews always gives a caring perspective. Many a time I have read a company response to a clearly irate. “1 star rating” customer and sided with the company, based on their response.

In short – No – The customer is not always right. Try your best, as a company, to keep them onside. That is always the simplest and best method but don’t find yourself a victim of the adage the customer is always right! Be fair but be firm when needed.




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