The Customer Ain't Always Right

By Maryalene LaPonsie | Posted November 15, 2012

The customer is always right.

You've heard it said so many times that it seems like the gospel truth. But is it? In reality, good businesses don't need to perform back flips every time a customer complains. Here are three situations when the customer may not only be wrong, but when it's in your best interest to stand your ground.

When Employee Morale is at Stake

Customer complaints can run the gamut from charges of shoddy workmanship to poor service. However, chances are that many of the complaints you receive revolve around things your employee supposedly did or did not do.

It might be easiest to agree your employee was in the wrong, but tread carefully before you place the blame on a good worker. Your employees need to know you will back them up when they are clearly following established protocol or company procedures. Otherwise, you risk alienating your workers and destroying morale.

That doesn't mean you can't work out an acceptable compromise with your customer. It simply means that you don't make your employee the scapegoat. Remember, it might be expensive to replace a customer, but losing a good worker can cost you even more.

When a Customer Manipulates Your Business

Last year, a survey commissioned by the National Retail Federation estimated that businesses would lose approximately $3.5 billion in return fraud during the 2011 holiday season. Causes of this fraud include returns of shoplifted items or products purchased with fraudulent or stolen money.

Although there is only so much that can be done to prevent fraudulent returns, there is little doubt that some of this activity occurs because the customer expects to "always be right." That's why businesses take back non-defective clothing that has clearly been laundered or items without receipts.

Return fraud isn't the only way customers try to manipulate businesses. They may make unreasonable demands in an attempt to extract some type of restitution or purposely search for a reason not to pay as agreed. These problems can't be eliminated, but you can help curb customer manipulation by having a firm policy for returns and other recurring scenarios.

When You Can’t Satisfy the Customer

Virtually every business has one customer that they can't appease. It could be the customer who writes incessantly on your Facebook timeline or calls your service line each week with a new tale of woe.

Undoubtedly, you took the first complaints seriously and tried to smooth over the situation. However, when it becomes apparent that there is no satisfying this person, it is time to stop trying. It's a waste of time for both you and your staff.

Instead, tell the customer that you understand he is upset and apologize for being unable to meet his expectations. He will likely continue to contact you for a while longer, but will likely move on when he stops getting the desired response.

Finally, remember that how you respond to an angry customer on an open forum says more about you than does the actual complaint. Always respond with professionalism and integrity, but don't be afraid to say "no" either.

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