Not Always Right: The Great Customer Service Divide

“The Customer is always right.”

Whether you have been a customer or have worked in a customer service-based business, you are familiar with this statement. The phrase was coined in 1909 by Harry Gordon Selfridge owner of Selfridges based in London, England. It’s a phrase used by businesses over the past 100 years to create the image of loyalty and a guarantee to customers. A promise that is merely a facade.

The issue is the customer is not always right, they’re misinformed. In that misinformation we find an old adage that is misleading. It’s simply incorrect. Stating the contrary is a taboo notion because a business will thrive or die based on their customers. The intent behind the phrase came during a time when mass production was practically nonexistent and providing a customer with good service on such a grand scale as a store like Selfridges was new.

Ending the Us Versus Them Mentality

What is wrong with this concept? People are misinformed and times have changed. The situation may not be as simple as right and wrong. It creates a us versus them mentality that is toxic in customer service. Classifying any customer service issue as right and wrong only serves to exacerbate a situation that may already be volatile.

Before you grab your pitchforks, let me explain that this is not a bad thing. It is an opportunity. An opportunity to create a customer service experience that will not only serve your customer but your company. There is not a dividing line causing you to choose sides unless you buy into this toxic mentality. At the end of the day, it is not you/your company versus the customer. Choosing how you approach the situation will determine the outcome.

As someone working in customer service, you have two priorities when dealing with a Customer Service need – good and bad. The first, is to represent your company. Your company has a priority to provide a product or service for monetary exchange. The second, to resolve any issues your customer may have in a manner that you continue to have an ongoing relationship with them. Satisfied Customers will provide repeat business. They will either continue to give you their business and/or they will tell their friends and family.

When No One is Right, is Anyone Wrong?

So, if the customer is not always right then what do you do? What if the company is in the wrong? What if the customer is wrong? These are fairly common questions and not every situation applies to the concept of right and wrong.

Evaluate the situation and your customer’s needs. Understand that often the resolution may be simple. No matter the “why” the main point is a problem needing resolution. Your tone and approach is a priority. A customer will respond to how they are spoken to and the approach taken to resolve their issue.

The end result should be customer satisfaction. That is not always an easy feat. There are many determining factors you must keep in mind. Emotions should never be met with emotions. A great mantra when dealing with any situation that has been escalated to emotional is simply this – Resolve, Reinforce, Rebuild, Reward.

Resolve – find the solution to the problem. Even if that solution may not be the one the customer hoped for or expected.

Reinforce – ensure to your customer their importance. Use a tone and language that speaks to the customer in a way that shows you value their business. That you desire a resolution that is satisfactory for both parties.

Rebuild – during many situations the customer’s desire to continue business may break down. As you interact with them, evaluate how you can regain their trust and strengthen the relationship they have with your company.

Reward – customer satisfaction not only benefits the customer it benefits the company, as well. The desired result is a happy customer with repeat business. Remember, people talk and in a digital age, they now have a larger audience to listen to their experiences.

It is not always easy to be the ambassador. When you take the time to educate your customer by providing them with memorable customer service, you create a better relationship. Trust is important – people value those they trust. Create a positive customer service experience your customers will always remember. While the customer is not always right, they are always important.

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