As business owners, we struggle with balancing what’s right for the customer and what’s right for the business. You’ve probably been approached with an upset customer reminding you that you should listen to your customer and suggesting that, if not stating outright, that “The customer is always right.” Can a business really get away with such an approach?
We know of companies that seem to rely on this mantra. The company may have as a core value that “The customer is always right”. The critical piece of whether a company can live with that core value is how it is exemplified in the company. The company’s employees must know what it means and how to implement it on a day to day basis. If not, allowing the customer to be “always right” may undermine you with your employees or other stakeholders.
Consider your approach from your employees’ perspective. The employee who provided the customer with the goods or services has an important perspective, too, which needs to be factored into the assessment of the situation. If you simply give the customer their desire because they were dissatisfied or simply complaining, the employee may feel he or she is not valued. Without further explanation or context of the policy, the employee will often be angry and frustrated. In addition, the employee will accept the customer’s interpretation that they are “always right” in every future interaction with that customer because that’s what you’ve taught the employee to do.
We want employees to learn and grow with each customer experience, especially customer disputes. Employees must know that it’s okay to make a mistake and, more importantly, what to do next time. To help your employees to solve a problem for a customer and for the company, you must identify the essential benefits a customer gets from working with your company and be sure that information is communicated across the company. Similarly, if your company has stated core values, communicate those and describe what they mean. These tools help you educate both your customers and employees about what’s important and how the company adheres to these in both good and difficult situations. A policy that describes how customer disputes are handled is helpful to provide each employee the guidance as to how to address and escalate issues when they arise. It also provides a consistent approach.
Without question, you want to take care of your customer and you want to hear their feedback. To satisfy a customer, though, you need to have and communicate a holistic view of what your company represents to help your team interpret how to live those values everyday.