Is the customer always right?

Updated: Feb 5, 2021

The first thing any customer-facing staff member is told, on day one, is that the customer is always right. It is often heard of ‘traditional’ managers that all customers are idiots and they should be treated as such. Neither of these premises is correct!

If the customer was always right there would be no need for customer services or facilities like Live Chat. However, the real trick is to make the customer believe they are right and that your suggestion was really their idea. Not as easy as you might think, and can be likened to herding cats in some cases, mainly those customers who do believe they are right but are in fact, idiots!! Not a very PC statement I know but anyone who has dealt with customers from a technical approach will relate to this experience.

Take for example a customer who has spent a large amount on new technology, believes they know how to use it, and doesn’t take up the technical support option to help set it up or have the half-hour lesson……(I speak from experience) a couple of weeks or months later finds that Windows 10 is not working! Apps won’t open, the internet and Wi-Fi keeps failing…!!! ….. in short, the technology is at fault and the whole world is ended!! Melodrama to one side, the office grinds to a halt as the customer spends a fair few hours Googling (on a phone as the technology is ‘shoddy’) only to reach the conclusion that the problem is not fixable. This is then followed by at least an hour of digging out the receipt (obviously moved from the safe place it was filed in by someone else) to return the item to store and complain.

Fired up and all guns blazing in she walks. Up to the customer service desk. Fake smile in place. “I bought this 2 months ago and it's stopped working I’ve tried everything on the forums and it doesn’t work, I think it needs to be replaced.” Deep breath and smiley customer service rep replies “Oh I’m so sorry (accepts fault) can you log me in please and I’ll have a look (trys to give hope).” Sigh “Ok then but I have tried absolutely everything. Humpf!” ………. “Ah-huh Mrs X, here you go all sorted. it just needed to do an update and have a full restart, it should be fine now!” Gasp ” Are you sure I never had to restart my iPhone?” And here comes the customer service bit….. “No, I had the same experience (white lie) when I swapped from Apple to Microsoft (laughs at self) I felt such a plonker when my friend told me too. At least it's sorted now for you, I’m sorry no-one told you about this when you bought this”

Was the customer right? Were they an idiot? No, and well maybe a bit, but they left the shop happy, feeling like they had been helped and not feeling embarrassed. The trick is to empathise, not patronise. So forget the two opening statements and build a relationship with your customers that means they praise you to others. Customers are not idiots and they are not always right but they are the reason your business exists and eventually, they do pay our wages. So treat them with respect and give them an experience you want them to talk about – social media such as Facebook and Twitter means that your good service travels further and faster than traditional word of mouth. But bad service travels even faster and further because the customer almost always believes they were right and that they have a right to share a bad experience.

Take care and offload privately after the customer has left if you really need to!!

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