“The customer is always right!” that’s a phrase lots of businesses preach and live by. But is there any truth to this?
No, there's none – and we all know it. The phrase is actually just implying that assuming your customers are always right and meeting their needs is better than losing them to your competition, especially the loyal customers.
However, do you consider this strategy as smart? Not quite as there may be various situations. There may be the cases when a few bad customers try to overexploit businesses and incur unnecessary costs. For such customers it is much more reasonable to get rid of them as they are not worth the trouble.
The Question You Should Rather Be Asking
We are sure you're wondering what to say to your employees. “There are good customers, and there are bad customers– use your discretion”? Well, the solution is easy if we rephrase the question. It’s a waste of time to ask whether or not the customer is right at all times. You should be asking: Does the customer sincerely believe he or she is right? Keep this phrase in mind and preach it to your employees, the right thing to do will follow naturally.
The Honest Customer
There are customers that truly believe they are right, your job is to make them feel so by respecting their demands and solving their troubles. They sometimes make true mistakes as a result of confusion or misunderstandings. Admonishing them and outrightly refusing their demands will only create hard feelings and you could lose your customers.
Train your employees to come to appreciate that it is far better to keep a good customer than to lose them because they are trying to save a few dollars. Make them see the potential customer's contribution to the business' success in the future. A manager can be called upon to handle the situation if it involves more than a few dollars to meet the demands of the customer.
If it is necessary to correct the customer so as to avoid misunderstandings in future, do so after the problem has been solved. Doing it before will only be seen by the customer as lecturing. But if it's done afterwards, chances are that you'll be seen as providing additional information that is useful.
The Less-Than-Honest Customer
In my opinion, if you feel the customer is not being honest in his or her complaint or request, you ought to respectfully say no with reasons. The customers may become upset and not return, but so what? I don’t see any reason you should keep them if their aim is to exploit you.
An employee of a major department store may face and from time to time customers who would return clothes that had obviously been worn and washed or had stains. Most people believe in honesty and fairness, so it was very demoralizing and annoying to the employees to accept those clothes. Also, they were aware that doing that increased business cost and in turn, good customers end up paying more.
We are of the opinion that you must politely refuse these customers with the right explanation such as, "We can't sell it, and so can’t take it back”, “We are sorry, but this cloth has a stain" in such circumstances. Losing these types of customers only ensures they become your competitor's problem.
The Judgment Call
But, what happens in situations when you're not sure if a customer is telling the truth or not? How do you handle such demands or complaints? The best thing is to treat them as if they are being honest, deal with the problems to their satisfaction, however, obtain the necessary information that will enable you to track them whenever such problems reoccur in the future. There may be need to change your assessment and actions toward specific customers if problems persist.
For further details please visit the respective section on our page on consumer behavior and psychology courses.