What to do when the customer is wrong

From our guest author Adam Erhart

The customer is always right.

We’ve heard it time and time again, but is “always” really the right word? Isn’t there some conceivable situation where maybe, just maybe, the customer is actually wrong? Of course. But maybe you’ve also heard…

“You can be right, or you can be happy”

And when it comes to business, sometimes being happy is more important than being right. Sometimes. There comes a time and point in almost every business owner or entrepreneurs career when they’ll face a seriously difficult customer. Though these customers are rare, they do exist, and can pose a serious threat to both business, and business owner. So what should you do when the customer is not right at all, but actually very, very wrong?

It Doesn’t Matter If They’re Right Or Not

First, it really doesn’t matter whether the customer is right or not. Being “right” has to do with perception and will likely look very different to you than to an unsatisfied customer. Therefore the first step is to realize that if the customer thinks they’re right, it’s unlikely you’re going to be able to convince them otherwise. If you find that you’re getting a stream of unsatisfied customers however, then it’s likely that there’s a problem with your service, your product, or your message and marketing and something needs to be fixed. Quickly.

When To Back Down

When to back down
J. Peterman is well known for his classic and enduring catalogue, the “Owner’s Manual” but probably even more so, for his commitment to exceptional customer service. His motto was “Absolute Satisfaction. Guaranteed.” And he built this into the core of the business. This motto guided what they did to the point of making right even the most ludicrous and ridiculous of claims. There are a few things you need to consider when your customer appears to be outright wrong.

#1 What Is Your Company Policy?

Knowing your company policy will help to outline, if not outright dictate, how best to proceed. The Ritz Carlton is famous for providing each of its employees with $2000 to help satisfy any guest request. If you maintain a strict “customer is always right” policy than the answer of what to do will seem easy and straightforward. Fix the problem, after all, the customer is always right.

#2 What Are The Costs?

There are two costs to consider in any customer service issue. The first is what are the direct costs to your business by making the situation right. This could be the cost of refunding an item, extra service required to fix an issue, or providing any additional compensation to an unsatisfied customer. The second cost is the more important cost to consider and that is, what is the cost of NOT solving the customer’s problem quickly?

And these costs can be huge!

From the simple loss of the customer, which almost guaranteed if they’re not accommodated, to the widespread damage that can occur through negative publicity and word-of-mouth. Social media makes it far too easy for unsatisfied customers to preach far and wide about perceived abuses, injustices, and wrongdoings suffered at the hands of your company. There are also legal issues and expenses to consider, whether you’re in the right or not, and of course the most painful cost of all, the inevitable “time suck” of having to deal with an unsatisfied customer.Unsatisfied customers seem to have a knack for taking up the most time possible.

The time costs of not quickly solving a customer issue can rapidly surpass what it would have cost to simply issue them a refund, provide additional compensation, or solve their issues right away without question or delay. I would argue that almost all cases warrant the customer is always right approach. Almost without fail, implementing a customer is always right policy has benefits that far outweigh the costs.

When NOT To Back Down

When not to back down.
As with most things in business, there are occasionally exceptions to the rule, and the same goes for a customer is always right policy. In cases such as clear and direct abuse (verbal or physical), theft, or manipulation of your company, you can feel pretty confident in disregarding the customer is always right policy. This is especially true if you have employees who happen to be the victim of the unsatisfied customers rant, rage, or attack (verbal or physical). It’s important that your employees know that you’ll stand up for them, especially when a customer is being rude or disrespectful.

Angry customers are one thing, angry employees can be a much bigger problem.

All that said, even in these situations care must be exercised and any unsatisfied customers must be dealt with carefully and skillfully to ensure the most positive possible outcome.

Customers are the lifeblood of any business, and sometimes being right isn’t as fun, profitable, or satisfying as being happy.

Adam Erhart Adam Erhart is a digital marketing consultant, entrepreneur, and marketing agency owner, bringing over a decade of international business and marketing experience to clients in a variety of fields.