COMPANY CULTURE / NOV. 05, 2013
version 5, draft 5

Is the Customer Always Right?

As a business owner or provider of a product or service, you will encounter a variety of customers good and bad; as the saying goes... "Everyone brings joy to this office, some when they arrive and some when they leave". No doubt you have encountered people who are impossible to please, you have gone above and beyond the call of duty to satisfy them and they are still complaining loudly. You know that one bad review has the power to ruin a good business's reputation, but you have exhausted all avenues and still cannot please the customer.  So when should you throw up your hands and surrender to the fact that you will probably lose the client even though you did everything in your power to keep them? The marketplace is increasingly competitive and every customer counts, you want to give them a  high degree of service but at what point do you know that the relationship is consuming more time and energy than it's worth? 

To help you out, I have compiled a checklist  of questions to ask yourself before you surrender your efforts to hold onto the customer:

Were you patient?

Did you take time with the customer to answer all their questions? People need to know that they have your undivided attention when they are enquiring about your service or product. Looking at your phone or computer screen when you are with them will make them feel rushed and unimportant. Remember, if they are spending money with your business, they are worth every minute of your time!

Were you friendly?

Did you acknowledge the client's presence, smile and make eye contact when they arrived? Making yourself approachable will win you half the battle. If the customer has met you before, make sure you remember their name or their enquiry/purchase. Nobody wants to be forgotten. Building a friendly relationship from the get go will help in the future if any problems arise. It is all about building a solid foundation, especially as a new business owner!

You were talking but was the customer understanding?  

Often people who are passionate about their service or product will forget to talk in laymans terms to a customer. Try and speak clearly and not too fast; when people are absorbing information, they may need to repeat what they have been told or ask questions. If the client is entering into a contract, take your time to explain the conditions so to avoid misunderstandings later on. If your customer comes away from your meeting feeling well informed about the product, policy and procedures then you have done your job. Whatever the situation, always remember that communication is key to a successful worknig relationship.

When Things go Wrong...

When the customer has a complaint, how do you handle the situation? Firstly, let the client be heard, they may be angry and frustrated and need to get the issue off their chest.  Listen carefully to what they have to say and stay calm and attentive, remember that this is not a personal attack on you, even though it may feel like it, so do not panic or become defensive. 

After you have heard your customers side of  the story, show them that you empathise with their situation and that you can understand why they are unhappy. Next try and unravel exactly what is the key issue of the complaint so that you are clear on what needs correcting. At this point you will need to check if it is your product or service at fault or if there was a misunderstanding from the customer's side. If it is clear what the client's expectations are for a resolution then discuss how you can mutually agree on a fair solution, and on the steps that will be taken to reach it.  If the customer refuses to agree on a solution then calmly suggest that you will need some time to look into how you can resolve the issue and you will follow up with them as soon as possible.  Do make sure you follow up quickly.

When you are satisfied that you have done all of the above and your customer is still dissatisfied, then it may be time to cut them loose. Chances are, if you have serviced them correctly you will find common ground for a resolution , however we are only human and there are a few consumers out there that will never be happy. If this is a client that you have worked with over a period of time, you could introduce them to a colleague who can follow up with them, or if it was a one off transaction then its probably best to refund and cut your losses. Do not be disheartened if this situation occurs though. Whether you are a budding new business owner, experienced manager or self-employed, you are sure to come across a similar situation, but you can also rest assured that you will have another opportunity to shine in the area of customer service again!

So, to sum up... No. The customer is not always right. 

 

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