The customer is always right. Right? Except for when they’re totally wrong. With people taking to social media in droves to complain about the tiniest perceived slight from a business, what can you do when the customer is just wrong?
Kelly Riggs, author of “Quit Whining and Start SELLING!” and founder of performance coaching firm Vmax Performance Group, offers some great insights.
(When) Customers Have Issues
Many years ago I was telling my dad about a challenge I was having at work with a particular manager. This boss rarely considered input from his employees and frequently made amazingly poor decisions. After listening to some of my story, my dad said something to me that was quite interesting: “The boss isn’t always right,” he said. “But — he is always the boss.”
Okay. Well, thanks for the support. That’s what I thought at first, anyway, but, as it turns out, he wasn’t actually supporting my boss; instead, he was trying to tell me something important about dealing with people. He was suggesting that you need to respect the boss, even when he or she does things you don’t agree with.
Old school stuff. Respect for authority, that kind of thing.
It is, by the way, good advice. If you don’t respect what the boss does, instead of becoming a problem go somewhere else. (What better way to penalize a bad boss than to take your talent elsewhere?)
Thinking about that story reminded me of a very similar saying that businesspeople should always remember: “The customer isn’t always right, but he (or she) is ALWAYS the customer.” Same idea as above; same take-away. If your customer has a problem, he or she may not be right, but it still makes good business sense to respect the customer.
First, delighted customers are the best marketing money can buy. Second, dissatisfied customers can be more destructive that just about anything (just look at all the websites devoted to trashing companies that treat customers poorly). Third, a customer’s value to your business is usually measured over a lifetime, not a single purchase. Unless it is unprofitable to do business with the customer, it makes (dollars and) sense to deal patiently with customers who have issues.
The stark reality is that almost all customers have issues. Some issues are big, some are small. Some are easily resolved, some are chronic. Some issues are imagined, others are the real deal. Regardless of the size and scope of the issue, business owners and managers, and their sales and staff members, should be diligent in resolving issues – real or imagined. Why? Because the customer may not necessarily be right, but he/she can certainly influence the decisions of a whole lot of other potential customers.
Tips on Dealing with Customer Issues
In my experience, one of the traits that seems to appear consistently among top businesspeople is their ability to effectively handle customer issues. In fact, top businesspeople just seem to know how to parlay customer issues into additional business, new opportunities, and qualified referrals. While some seem to do it quite naturally, I have found that in most cases it’s simply a matter of learning a few key skills and looking at each issue as an opportunity to impress the customer.
The question is how do they do it? What exactly are they doing to negotiate through or around these issues?
One critical idea to consider very simple, but widely abused. Some people tend to throw other departments under the bus when things go wrong. “I don’t know what those guys in shipping are doing,” they might say. Or, “Our accounting department is clueless.” Stuff like that. The idea is to deflect blame and be the “good guy.” However, by blaming others, that staff member is sending a very clear message: I don’t take responsibility for problems, and I am willing to blame anyone else at any time.
This not only erodes your integrity, but it will eventually destroy your credibility.
Some quick tips:
1. Take responsibility for the issue personally (regardless of the cause)
2. Avoid assumptions – get a clear definition of the problem from the customer
3. Make sure the customer’s assumptions are valid
4. Be positive and amiable – even in disagreement
5. Learn everything you can this time, so you can proactively avoid the same issue next time.