Is the customer always right?

Posted: 17th June, 2022 in Case Studies, Customer Service, Sales , Tips & Tricks, Training and mentoring

If there is one thing, I am passionate about – it’s customer service. Often, I am reminded of the phrase “the customer is always right”. Some of you may agree with it; whilst others will not.

Now, I understand that customers are not always easy to deal with and can be demanding. And as much as many companies will have wonderful products or services, we need to remember if we don’t look after our customers - we won’t have a business.

We might think our clients are loyal to us, but they are much more assertive than ever before. They are educated, savvy and are not afraid to speak up or walk when they get bad service.

In fact, according to a report published in 2020 by Zendesk, “80% of customers said they would rather do business with a competitor after one bad experience”. Just as interestingly, a report published by Glance showed “78% of customers have backed out of a purchase due to a poor customer experience”.

So, we really need to pay attention. But how many of us actually do?

Over the years, I have seen great examples where companies instil a culture of "customer is king. The ethos comes from the top down, so it is very evident to see in the way they look after their staff. As a result, employees are both motivated and encouraged to look after customers and provide an excellent and memorable experience. Consumers who are left feeling valued are more likely to come back or recommend the brand to a friend or family member.

On the other hand, I have come across plenty of firms where customers are considered to be an interruption or a nuisance to the business. Often, the company doesn’t even realise that a level of rigidness or complacency has crept in. This can be at various levels and differ between teams and individuals. 

A situation might be where a company is heavily driven by financial KPI’s. So, if a customer takes up too much time, they might be hurried off the phone or dismissed because they haven’t spent enough money. 

Another instance that comes to mind is where I have seen organisations that are heavily governed by lots of “rules and procedures”. I appreciate many companies must work within certain regulations. However, without realising it, a lot of them end up working solely within these parameters.

Their clients perceive the organisation and staff to be uncaring as they hide behind the “policies” that are continuously quoted to them. Exceptions are rarely considered; and if they are, the customer is brought through a long-winded process to get a matter resolved wasting more time and money. 

I completely agree that it is reasonable for a business to pay attention to the finances and streamline processes. It is also good to introduce clear and effective guidelines so both staff and buyers know what to expect each time they engage with each other. However, we need balance and flexibility.

So, this brings me back to Harry Gordon Selfridge’s saying and how I like to adapt it.  I believe it should say “We need to treat the customer right”. 

It’s proven that people who feel appreciated will stay. They will also be more forgiving when we make a mistake. Indeed, research from Salesforce in 2020 shows that “78% of people will do business with a company again if the customer service is excellent, even after a mistake”.

So we must remember, always put the customer at the centre of the experience, rather than the transaction.

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