The Customer is Always right… To Their Face

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The customer is always right. Right?

I went to the drive through of a well-known coffee establishment the other day. I ordered what I always get, a “large” soy latte. I paid at the window, and was handed a medium. When I pointed out that I ordered a large, she did not argue or make excuses. She just said give us a minute and we will make the correct size. I asked if I had been charged for a large, and that I would pay the difference if charged for a medium. She said she charged for a medium, not to worry about it, it was their mistake. I drove off feeling pretty good about that company. This wasn’t an isolated incident, they are known for great customer service. I’m pretty sure I ordered the large because I always do, but I could have made a mistake. This company understands that pointing out a customers mistakes is a bad idea.

I have always lived by the saying; “The customer is always right,…to their face!

I’m not saying to be two faced. What I mean is , even if I feel that the customer might be wrong, I am going to listen to the issue. I am going to take the time to investigate the issue. Most of the time, I am going to do what the customer wants us to do.

Never assume you know what the customer wants. Especially, when there is a problem and you need to make it right. Ask, How would you like us to handle this? Or, What do you feel is a satisfactory resolution to the problem? Then do it as long as it is reasonable. Very few request will be unreasonable. Unreasonable would be “you put a small scratch in my bumper while you worked on my 8 year old car, so I expect you to give me a new car.” I mean “unreasonable” has to be really unreasonable.

Ask yourself how you would feel in that situation, put yourself in their shoes. This always helps me gain understanding to make the best choice to resolve the issue. The golden rule. And, telling an upset customer what your company polices are is a fast track to a lost customer. They don’t care what some policy says. They want the issue resolved.

You have to pick your battles. I have found that the issue is easy to resolve most of the time, a win – win situation. You can stand behind a policy and argue a point with the confidence you are correct. But, is it worth it? Is it worth losing a good customer to be right, to win the battle? Evaluate and weigh the whole outcome. Evaluate based on the best outcome for the situation.

Sometimes, the best choice is to make the customer right when they are really wrong. It does not make sense to lose a $200,000.00 customer over a $200.00 issue. I’d bet he is just as convinced as you are that he is right, or he wouldn’t say anything. Your competitor is the only real winner, if you choose to win these battles. Am I saying to let your customers bully you? It depends. In a profitable situation that justifies it, on occasion, sure. As long as it does not compromise your integrity or any laws. If it becomes a habit, or the situation is not very profitable, it might be a good opportunity to make a clean break. Which needs to be handled with integrity and respect, no reason to burn the bridge and make an enemy. Sometimes, you have to have a difficult conversation; “We have looked into the complaint, and we won’t be able to do what you have requested. But, here is what we can do.” More often than not, the best choice is swallow our pride and make it right in the customers eyes.

This all sounds so easy, right? Then why do so few do it? Are we afraid that we will be taken advantage of? Is it worth losing many good customers to make sure the one bad apple doesn’t get to you?

  • It is refreshing to read postings like this…what you have written about above should be the rule, not the exception to the rule! This is how you build long lasting relationships! Thanks for sharing. You have me curious what type of product you sell. Like the new look by the way : )

    • Thank you for the positive feedback. I rent and sell aerial construction equipment.