Working with clients isn’t always easy. Whether you work in retail, customer service, or any other field that requires you to interact with customers, you probably know how draining, and sometimes frustrating, it can get. But then you remember in your training you were taught that the customer is always right. And you ask, ‘are they, though?’
Timothy Drabic has over 20 years of experience managing and developing people as well as the overall client experience. He believes that this business tenet is faulty and defeats its purpose. “In businesses with a customer-centric policy,” he elaborates, “employers drill this principle in their staff to motivate them to provide good customer service. But it can backfire when some customers try to test the limits of just how right they can be.” In certain situations, the customer is obviously incorrect. So how should the employee behave and what strategies do employers need to adopt to deal with these situations?
The Customer Made a Mistake
Mistakes happen all the time. Sometimes the customer makes a mistake, misreads the label, makes assumptions about the product, or maybe just ignores the instructions all together. In such a situation, asking the employee to go along with the customer and apply the ‘customer is always right’ rule is not entirely right and can cost the company in the end money or reputation.
“It’s bad for everybody,” explains Timothy Drabic, “especially for morale, as it can make your employee’s miserable. Not to mention it creates an abrasive relationship between the staff and management.” The best customer service course of action, when the irate customer yells for the manager, is for management to take the side of the employee with caution to not upset the customer more than they already are. This can be tricky. It’s important to maintain civility at all times even when either the employee or manager is explaining the customer’s mistake and offering ways to ratify it. There’s no need to lose both the employee and the customer. Instead, everybody wins when the customer leaves happy with their purchase while the employee feels that management has their back.
The Customer is Bad for Business
Not all situations can be defused with a smile and a polite explanation. Some customers believe they’re infallible. They behave in any way they please secure in the notion that they’ll always be tolerated no matter what. “In a service-oriented company,” says Timothy Drabic, “accommodating such a customer is bad for business. We’re not just talking about a single transaction here. This client will interact with your staff on a regular basis and this can have a long-term demoralizing effect on the employees if they are continually harassed during work hours.”
Sometimes it’s better to sacrifice a bad customer than risk creating a lot of stress and resentment in your place of business. Which brings us to the third situation:
It’s the Work Environment
Other times it’s not the customer who made the mistake that triggered the “I want to see the manager” standoff. It’s the employee. When your employees make repeated mistakes, especially ones that involve customers, this is a sign that something is not right in your workplace and you need to act.
“Sometimes the customer gets upset when the employee doesn’t treat them with respect or doesn’t answer their questions in a helpful manner,” Timothy Drabic says. “This can set off a customer and create an undesirable scene.” Here, it doesn’t matter what started this situation, because there are undercurrents of hostility that mar the relationship between the staff and the clients. The employer needs to look closely at the work environment and root out the cause of dissatisfaction among the staff. A happy worker is more productive and is one who puts the best interests of the company front and center.
Timothy Drabic concludes that the mantra of ‘the customer is always right’ does not always work out the way people think it does. It is up to the employer to discern the root of the customer service problem and correct it so that both employees and customers can have an enjoyable experience.