The customer is always right?

The Customer Is Always Right. Right? Well, Not Really

Most everyone has heard the old maxim from Harry Gordon Selfridge, “The customer is always right.”  Most everyone, of course, also recognizes that this really isn’t true. Sometimes the customer can be dead wrong.  It is, in fact, one of the four myths that holds people back in customer service

The question is, should you just do what the customer asks anyway (assuming that you can), even if you know it may not be right for them?  Should you tell them when they are mistaken, or just let them carry on in ignorance? And if you tell them they’re wrong, what’s the best way to do it?

When the customer is not right, what should you do?

Outstanding customer service begins with integrity, which means that not telling customers of potential negative outcomes 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, of course, is their call.

You NEVER want to embarrass a customer

Speaking of old maxims, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it” is absolutely true.  The words you choose with customers are absolutely critical.  While “the customer is always right” may not be accurate in a literal sense, the sentiment – that we need to respect our customers’ beliefs, opinions and perspectives – lies at the core of outstanding customer service.
The most common mistake service providers make when customers misunderstand something is to bluntly correct or argue with them. I’ve encountered some people who seem to take great glee in telling customers they are wrong. The inevitable end result is that they create embarrassed customers who will either feel compelled to continue arguing or worse – become disinclined to ever do business there again.
Here’s one immutable rule of customer service:
It is NEVER appropriate to make a customer feel stupid.

5 better ways to steer a customer in the right direction

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

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

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

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

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

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

These come from the vaults of Belding Training’s Talk Judo service recovery training techniques. 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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