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  • Kerry Finch

Why the customer is not always right

As a Western Sydney business owner or manager, you may have repeatedly heard that the key to customer satisfaction is to maintain that the ‘customer is always right’ in every situation. This motto was popularised by pioneering and successful retailers such as Harry Selfridges and Marshall Field. The idea was to treat customer complaints seriously and to ensure that the customer always received good customer service. While providing good customer service is generally beneficial for business, it should not automatically and unquestionably favour customers to be right in every situation.

Good customer service is undoubtedly an important factor in the relationship between a business and its customers. But for the good of everyone, the business should strive to maintain good customer relations while promoting mutual respect, understanding and cooperation from all sides.

The following tips can help you strike the right balance while continuing to deliver good customer service:

1. Strengthen relationships with employees

Believing that ‘the customer is always right’ in every situation sends a subconscious message to your employees that you value them less than the customer and tends to build resentment among your workers. If you want to keep your trusted employees happy, support them and back them up when they are challenged by unreasonable customers. Employees who feel supported and valued in their work will strive to give the best experience for your customers. When employees feel that they are trusted and respected by their employers, they feel empowered and motivated and it will show in the quality of their work and how they deal with customers.

All employees are human. Even the most skillful and efficient employee can make unintentional mistakes. When they falter at work, it’s crucial to show them support and understanding which allows them to be honest about their lapses and motivated to follow through with appropriate resolutions. Promote a learning environment where valuable lessons can be obtained from challenging situations and which empower employees to improve how you work with clients.

Managers and leaders are in the best position to set examples on how employees must interact with customers. Engage your managers as well in the implementation of best customer service practices that staff and personnel can readily emulate.

2. Communicate a clear policy to your clients

Establish clear policies for the way your business operates and the way your organisation works with customers. Communicate these policies at the start of the relationship to confirm that all who are involved are agreeable and willing to proceed on this basis.

Matters that you might want to communicate to everyone include:

  • The terms and conditions of business

  • Method for resolving customer complaints

  • Expected outcomes when you work together,

  • Your stated customer service values, and

  • The benefit or result that your business will deliver in exchange for their patronag

All of these elements lay the foundation of your relationship with clients and allow clients to align their expectations accordingly.

3. Concentrate on finding solutions

The motto ‘The customer is always right’ should not be a license for customers to make unreasonable demands or behave badly. When a customer raises a complaint, it’s important to exert effort in reaching a fair resolution to a problem. Clients tend to have a favourable view of your business if you do your best to resolve issues promptly and fairly. By focusing on solutions, you help build positive ‘online word of mouth’ and minimise negative feedback that can influence potential clients on the Internet.

Working on a fair resolution involves acknowledgment of the client’s concerns and exploring all angles of the situation in order to arrive at the best course of action. Assume responsibility for any mistake and explain why your course of action is the appropriate direction for everyone. It’s also important to inform your client how a different approach can prevent a repetition of the problem.

When the customer is NOT always right

Not all customers are a good fit for your business. When dealing with problematic clients, you may have to rethink the transaction or relationship with them. You are not expected to expose yourself or your employees to risks of harm when dealing with clients. Consider letting go of clients or customers with constant unrealistic demands or who are a constant source of stress or negativity. In some situations, the fair approach to a customer issue may be to issue a refund to the client and move on and to pursue new customers whose expectations are aligned with what you have to offer.

There are no hard and fast rules in running a business or in handling customer complaints. The best lessons in customer relations are often learned in trial and error. Rather than focusing on the customer being right, business owners must think about growing positive relationships with customers and employees, and if necessary, to adjust the way you work when things occasionally turn awry.

At ATP, our Western Sydney business advisors are prepared to help you in every aspect of your business by analysing financial data and providing appropriate advice with risk minimisation in mind.

Whether you want to increase your sales or maximise the efficiency of your current systems the business advisors at ATP can help. Contact us today on 1-300-829-484 or email us to learn more about how we can help you.

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