by Tara Liston, hh2 Technical Support
For as long as I can remember, I have been trained and taught to believe that “the customer is always right.” And while there is no question that the customer should always be made to feel valued and heard, where is the line between feeling valued and understood, and being “right”? As a working professional in the customer service industry, a former small business owner, and a customer myself, this is a hard question to answer because I can see and understand both perspectives. I do value my customers’ loyalty to my business, and I also value their opinion of my company and the product that I am selling them. However, I also believe that there is a difference between being right and being valued/understood, and I think that allowing the line between the two to get muddied can be bad for business.
My first concern when I think of the phrase “the customer is always right” is that if this statement is taken too seriously, my business could build a reputation for not providing the correct advice in an attempt to keep the customer happy. My second thought is that even though I will always take customers questions seriously and assist them thoroughly, I would expect a mutual understanding that they reached out to me for my expertise.
There are many circumstances where a customer would be right. The customer is always right if they are stating that the service or product being provided to them is not what they wanted or expected (unless it is clearly outlined in a signed contract, at which point I think it is still important to compromise and empathize with them as much as is possible and reasonable).
Let me throw out an example: ordering new carpet to be installed in your house. The technician comes out to take measurements and let’s say that the measurements were much larger than you had anticipated, causing the quote to be significantly higher than you’d expected. As a customer, it does not make sense to get mad at the tech simply because you had underestimated your project. It is not the technicians fault that your house is larger than you thought. Now, let’s take this example a different way and say that the technician showed up to your house to install the carpet but brought a carpet that was different from the original one you had picked out. You point this out to the tech because you aren’t going to allow green carpet to be put in your house when you picked out and agreed to pay for purple carpet. This is a situation where the customer would be absolutely right.
As a customer service agent, providing respect for the customer’s opinion is extremely important while solving issues. Even if their opinion is contrary to the solution, helping the customer arrive at the answer should be done with tact. It is extremely important to help the customer see the reasoning behind the solution, allowing you to maintain a positive business relationship while letting them know that you are on their side.
At the end of the day, there are a couple of things to consider: As a customer, it is important to understand that when you are speaking with a professional at a company, you are dealing with an expert on that company’s products and services. Employees go through countless hours of training and potentially even years of schooling (depending on the service you are seeking). On the other hand, it is important as a professional to realize that customers run our businesses, and word of mouth spreads faster than any other form of advertising. If there is ever a way to please your customer while remaining within a realm of reason for your business, you should act on it. Even if you don’t think your customer is “right,” you should treat them with the respect and value that each and every customer deserves. When working in the customer service industry it is important to quickly pick up on the fact that your line of work is not about being right—it is about providing a service to the best of your ability and ensuring that your customer has the best possible experience with you and your company.