Practical Ecommerce

5 reasons to satisfy unreasonable customers

When I was 15 I was hired for my first job as a cashier for a major fast food chain. With no customer service experience, I owe much of my initial learning to this position. Hanging in the break room was a sign that read “The Customer Is Always Right” and “Make Every Customer Smile.” This philosophy was embedded in my brain – no matter what, even if the customer is wrong, he or she is right.

I didn’t get it until I became a small business owner myself. I started out believing that the customer was not always right. It wasn’t until I received my first poor review that I reconsidered and changed my own policy to “The Customer Is Always Right.”

So, why is the customer always right?

5 Reasons to Satisfy Unreasonable Customers

  • Angry customers are few and far in between. It will save time and your sanity from arguing with an unpleasant customer to simply do what he wants. No one likes an argument and no customer is happy when a business is combative. Most customers are pleasant and understanding.
  • Displeased customers are the first to post scathing reviews (even if they are in the wrong). Poor reviews can cause a drop in sales. Even if you lost five potential customers, that’s five less sales. What is more cost efficient: pleasing one customer (and possibility losing a few dollars) or losing new customers?
  • Satisfying an unreasonable customer will make the situation go away. It will halt any further actions you’ll need to take. You won’t have to respond to a Better Business Bureau (or similar) complaint or fight a chargeback. You can resolve the issue in a timely manner without taking up any more of your valuable time.
  • Pleasing an angry customer can win you repeat business. There’s an opportunity to turn angry customers into your biggest fans. These customers are usually the most vocal – and they are also more likely to share their experience online and through word of mouth – good and bad. Use this as an opportunity to show how outstanding your customer service truly is.
  • Your employees will appreciate the “customer is always right” policy. Knowing they don’t have to argue with a customer over a return policy if they are being belittled on the phone will make them happier in the workplace and with their job.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe the customer is always right. In fact, the customer is sometimes wrong. However, in the retail business we are here to satisfy customers. We need to focus on filling their wants, needs, and expectations. Dealing with an unhappy customer gives us the opportunity to reevaluate our products and services and see what went wrong. It allows us a chance to fine-tune our own policies and procedures so we can avoid the same problem in the future.

Righting a perceived wrong is not always easy. Whether it’s our fault or not, businesses need to show the customer that they are making an effort to help correct the situation. The key here is to work with the customer to find an agreeable resolution. Communication and a little empathy always help, too. Think about how you would like to be treated – if you were in the customer’s shoes. You may feel you were right, too.

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  1. Richard Stubbings September 27, 2014 Reply

    Whilst I agree with you that in general you should offer excellent customer service, and certainly look at everything from the customer’s point of view, I have to disagree with your main point of giving in every time.

    There are some “customers” who are trying it on. Who are basically scammers. If they find you an easy target they may well tell others who will likewise scam you.

    I believe that sometimes a retailer has to draw the line and say NO. Sometimes it is better to not give in. I have found that some negative reviews/feedback can HELP sales. If you reply to them positively, present your side, and never get drawn into an argument online, then other customers may purchase in sympathy.

    Certainly I always view a company with ZERO negatives with a bit of suspicion. Whereas one with the occasional blip where the company has tried to respond, or acknowledged as mistake, comes across as more trustworthy.

  2. Elizabeth Ball September 28, 2014 Reply

    I’d add my two cents here that often customers just want to be acknowledged for what made them angry. Sometimes you cannot actually fix the issue ie the promised delivery date (especially for a wedding deadline) was missed completely as happened to me. You don’t necessarily have to “give in”, but you do have to respond quickly, honestly and sympathetically.

    • Richard Stubbings September 29, 2014 Reply

      I completely agree, the tone of the response. What you say and how you say it, is vital. Not only for the customer, but also for anyone else reading the feedback.

      Sometimes I force myself to wait overnight before responding to a particularly unreasonable customer

  3. Timothy Doctor October 7, 2014 Reply

    Interestingly, I’ve read books by both MarK Cuban and Richard Branson, as well as an article or two that have addressed this adage. All state that “the customer is always right” shouldn’t be adhered to literally. In fact, most believe that the customer is usually wrong. What it does mean is that you should LISTEN to the customer, but not always give in. Sometimes explaining to the customer why they’re wrong and working to a resolution is better. I agree that most customers are pleasant, but sometimes you have to let the minority walk away unhappy. Each business owner has to make the call in the moment as to the best way to go with this.