What do you do when the customer is right and you are wrong?


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This free article by Derek Stockley highlights customer service. How would you handle a situation when the customer was right and you were wrong? Derek Stockley conducts customer service training, see: Customer Service Training.

Is the customer right?

Which is the best answer?

  • The customer is always right.

  • The customer is never right.

  • The customer is sometimes right.

  • The customer is always right at first.

The above mini quiz can be used in customer service training programs to generate interesting discussions.

What was your answer?

Discussion often concludes that most answers have some merit, but the "best" answer is probably that the customer is always right at first. This represents the best mindset to have, even if the customer is later proved to be wrong.

The need for customer contact staff to take care

I had a personal experience recently. As a customer, I was arranging transport of a package. Special arrangements applied.

It turned out that I knew more about this particular transaction than the customer service officer I was dealing with. Special pricing applied, but I had to query it when the staff member tried to charge me.

After checking the policy information, it turned out I was right and she was not fully aware of the policy.

She completed the transaction, but no apology was given. This was the part that surprised me. Her misunderstanding of the arrangement was understandable, but her approach was not acceptable.

It is very easy to underestimate the complexity of many customer service activities. There are often many policies and processes to be mastered.

Customers often access the corporate website before they do business. It is always possible that something has happened very recently that staff members may not be aware of.

It is possible to make mistakes. The right approach is to recognise that the possibility exists. It is possible that the customer knows more than you. The lesson is to be prepared to listen and learn. Do not create an "I'm right" and "you're wrong" situation.

Summary

Encourage customer service staff to listen to their customers. Have them approach each situation with "the customer is always right at first" mindset, so that they can gently lead the situation the other way if the customer is not right.

Personal reflection

Has this happened to you? As a customer? As a person dealing with a customer?

Action items

How do our staff approach customers?

Should this issue be discussed at our next team meeting?

Related information

Quick, efficient customer service is important - highlights the importance of fast, courteous and friendly customer service.

Frontline staff - critical to customer service success - highlights the importance of having staff who know and understand the business. Frontline staff are critical to determining how your organisation is perceived.

To review the newsletter, see: Listing of recent newsletter articles. All articles relate to a performance theme, but individual newsletters cover a specific topic. Themes include customer service, leadership, management, website marketing and time management.

You can publish this article, see: Publication.

Derek Stockley conducts public training courses in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, including a Public Train the Trainer Program.



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