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Is the Customer Ever Wrong?

Posted by: Eva Prada      August 16, 2018

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We all know what the old adage says: the customer is always right. The reasoning behind the sentiment is solid. After all, customer satisfaction is one of the biggest factors in creating and maintaining the relationships that sustain your business. However, in practice, there are times when "the customer is always right" feels like it could be wrong. The key is understanding when it's good to go the extra mile to keep a customer happy and when it's better to stand your ground. A few times that the customer may, in fact, be wrong:

1. When a customer is mistreating a member of your staff.

In July, a viral video circulated that depicted a server at a restaurant grabbing and body slamming a customer who had touched her inappropriately. Many commenters worried that the server would find herself out of a job after the incident. However, her employers surprised viewers by supporting the sever and banning the customer from the establishment.

The restaurant owners made a good call; employees who know that their managers have their backs are more likely to extend loyalty in return. Employees who are well-supported perform better and are likelier to stay with a company. Together, these factors make every one of your employees more valuable for your business as a whole. 

2. When a customer is causing problems for other customers.

Author Alexander Kjerulf told the story of a Continental Airlines customer whose attire was making other passengers uncomfortable during a flight. The customer's child had a hat with Nazi symbols on it, and many other customers complained. When the flight attendant asked him to put the hat away, he refused. Rather than allow the behavior, the pilot of the plane cited FAA regulations that prohibit customers from keeping flight personnel from doing their jobs. He told the passenger that he'd be removed if he did not put away the hat. The passenger complied.

While there are many times that customers should be accommodated, there are also many where they should not. By confronting one customer who was making others unhappy, the pilot was able to make the flight more peaceful for others onboard. 

3. When a customer takes advantage through scope creep.

Have you ever had a job that started small, then gradually metastasized into one that's much longer? Scope creep can be insidious; it can be hard to properly quote a price and allocate your team's time when it happens. If you have a client who is always looking for just one more thing, this is a client who may not, in the end, be good for your business. While many people believe that you should try to maintain every business relationship, some are not worth the cost over time. 

4. When a customer's complaints makes them too expensive or time consuming to deal with.

Wireless phone carrier Spring made national headlines when they took an unusual customer service measure: they sent break-up letters to 1,000 of their most troublesome customers. These were customers who made frequent calls to customer service and often said that their issues were not solved by the company. Sprint decided to sever the relationships, saying that they were unable to meet the customers' wireless service needs.

According to a representative at the company, tending to these customers took a disproportionate amount of time. As a result, other customers were having longer hold times and staff members were getting stressed out. By removing troublesome customers from the equation, Sprint was able to give better service to a larger number of customers instead.

Summing It Up

A commitment to customer service is admirable. However, limits and balance are needed to keep your staff and your other customers happy, as well. By recognizing when a customer is reasonable and when they are just wrong, you can use your resources in the best way possible and keep a larger number of people content.

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