Most likely, you have heard the phrase Customer is always right. Perhaps, as a customer, you felt that this phrase applied to you. However, the term American retail magnate Gordon Selfridge coined at the beginning of the 1990s is wrong for several reasons. The initial idea was to ensure quality customer support and help employees make decisions that would benefit customers and, simultaneously, build loyalty and trust. However, this customer-oriented ideology is old-fashioned in the present-day scenario, as it may often create obstacles to providing quality customer service.
On the other hand, those owning small businesses may find it difficult not to respond to the demand for improved customer service. According to a survey undertaken by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), declining or stagnating sales are the biggest concern for small business owners following the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, customer satisfaction and retention are a priority for them. Today’s mantra for a successful business includes building trust, cultivating loyalty, engaging customers, providing excellent customer service, and offering value. There is no doubt that these are crucial aspects of running a successful business, but it is time to think about whether we are going too far with these. In their endeavor to make customers happy, some business owners even compromise on the core attributes that make their products or services unique and desirable. But the truth is, you may have the best customer service, but if it is killing your business, it will not do you any good.
So, where does a small business owner draw the line for customer service? Here are a few vital areas that you ought to consider:
Just saying that the customer is always right does not make any sense today. Often, customers are wrong, and business owners should know how to deal with them. For instance, you should never take ownership of a mistake you are not accountable for. A customer may demand a 100% refund on a chair simply because he does not find it comfortable. If the comfort issue is subjective, do you think the customer is right? The customer may be just asking for a refund because he wants to keep the chair for free, as most furniture sellers would not request him to get the chair back. To deal with such situations, business owners should consider thinking that the customer can be wrong sometimes.
Occasionally, you will come across a customer who has a bad day. Sometimes the customers may be uncaring or irrational. Handling such customers is challenging for business owners, especially when reputations can be harmed on social media. Nonetheless, good customer service does not suggest that you should be a willing target of the abusive behavior of an angry person. You must act quickly and diffuse the situation, but you should never take the abuses lying down. In such cases, you need to take the term ‘The customer is always right with a pinch of salt. There can be occasions when the customer may not be right; when this happens, you should know where to draw the line.
Mistakes will happen no matter how much you try to make your product or service perfect. In such instances, it would be appropriate for you to make amends for the unexpected lack of quality. Making amends will be the best customer service response, but it will also help you retain your customer. However, whatever you decide to do should be in line with the actual distress experienced by the customer and ensure that you never go overboard. At the same time, make it a point not to chase after every customer who is unhappy with your product or service. Your product or service may often be excellent, but the customer’s expectations can be too high. In such cases, you always need to be courteous and can offer to make amends with a small discount on a future purchase. You need to realize that some people will always be unhappy irrespective of your product or customer service level. You have to accept the fact that you simply cannot please everyone.
Not Supporting Employees
Strictly pursuing the ‘customer is always right’ approach can harm your team’s morale. You will always encounter unruly and rude customers who are challenging to manage. Despite your team’s best efforts, a positive outcome may not always be. In such cases, if you side with the unruly and wrong customers, you may leave a negative impression on your employees. Your top priority should be to retain quality employees. However, with your focus being customer appeasement, the employees may have to take all the abuse due to management’s zero support. As a result, your employees will leave you and seek other opportunities. Therefore, you need to support your team first and then the customers.
Pursuing the mantra, ‘the customer is always right may be bad for quality customer service. This statement may seem a little odd, but it is the truth. For instance, if your team is continuously criticized by customers and does not get the support of the management, eventually, your team members will turn on the company – something like a mutiny on a ship. Remember, working conditions and company culture have a significant role in keeping your employees happy, productive, and efficient. However, when the balance in the workplace is upset due to negativity, employees are likely to leave the company. Subsequently, such negativity spreads to customers, which is unhealthy for your business.
Not All Customers are Worthy
Sometimes it is challenging to avoid unruly and rude customers, but that does not suggest you should continue doing business with them. Not all customers are worth having, including some who are unreasonable, do not pay on time, are abusive, and take too much valuable time. Remember, time is a valuable resource. For instance, if you have an unreasonable customer draining your company’s resources, you may lose traction with good customers. So, how do you assess when it is time to let a customer go? To identify the customers giving you the most headaches, you need to apply the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20-rule. Following the Pareto Principle will help you and your team to let go of the ‘the customer is always right attitude for good.
When you follow the ‘the customer is always right’ mantra in your daily business practices, you assume that you can satisfy every customer. This is a fool’s errand. The fact is that even the largest and most successful brands are aware that this is impossible. You should also know this. Each customer is unique and has different tastes. So, your business will fail quickly if you try to satisfy every customer’s needs. So, ‘the customer is always right is a flawed business model in today’s world.
Centuries-old business terms are still in place today. Nevertheless, these business phrases need to be examined closely to identify what makes sense and discard the remaining to ensure you are maximizing your growth and success.
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