Customer from Hell: The Customer is Always Right?


Most everyone has heard the old maxim, The customer is always right.

Most everyone, of course, also recognizes that this really isn’t true. Sometimes the customer can be dead wrong. The question is, should you just comply with their request anyway, even though you know it may not be right for them; or should you tell them they are mistaken? And if you tell them they’re wrong, what’s the best way to do it?

To the first point, outstanding customer service begins with integrity, which means that not telling them isn’t an option. You have an ethical obligation to advise a customer if you believe that a product or service might not be appropriate for them. Whether they choose to heed or ignore your advice, then, is their call. To the second point, the way that you tell them is absolutely critical. Although the literal wording of “the customer is always right” may not be accurate, the sentiment of the statement – that we need to respect our customers’ beliefs, opinions and perspectives – still speaks to the core of World-Class customer service.

The most common mistake people make when customers misunderstand something or have differing opinions is to bluntly correct them or argue with them. No doubt you have met some people who actually seem to take great glee in telling customers they are wrong. The end result is embarrassed customers who will either feel compelled to continue arguing or worse – become disinclined to ever do business with you again. Here’s one immutable rule of customer service: It is NEVER appropriate to make a customer feel stupid.

Here are a few effective approaches for responding to a customer who may not quite have it right:

“Really? I had thought it was xyz. Let me double check…”

“There certainly is some truth to what you’ve said. I think an even better approach might be to…”

“I used to think that too. What I’ve learned from working here, however, is…”

“What you’ve said applies to xyz. This is a little different. It’s really easy to get them confused…”

“You could use that, but I think you may not be pleased with the results. You might want to try this instead…”

Try them. Not all of these approaches will work in every situation, but they sure beat the heck out of most alternatives!

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