The customer is always right… right?

The time-honoured business adage, “The customer is always right,” is a philosophy companies have lived by for generations.

You may even have seen it on a poster on the office wall if you’re in a service industry taking direct calls from customers.

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Retail pioneer Harry Selfridge, who opened the legendary London department store in 1909, is credited with inventing the saying, so surely it must be correct? Even when the customer is most certainly wrong, should their unrealistic demands be tolerated because you don’t want to lose them?

Today’s business leaders are of the opinion that it makes sense to keep clients happy, but this doesn’t mean taking the saying literally. It’s a complex field, where good judgement and common sense must prevail and it’s certainly not sustainable to agree with all customer requests.

Why is it important to meet customer needs?

Studies show good customer service will turn 86% of clients into long-term clients who will remain loyal to your brand. On the other hand, 68% of people who’ve had a bad experience with your company will try another company in response.

According to research, it takes 12 positive customer reviews to repair the damage to your reputation caused by receiving one negative one on social media. In addition, only 20% of customers will use your business again if they feel they’ve received poor customer service.

All this serves to emphasise the importance of customer service to your company, no matter what the size or sector but while it should certainly be your first priority, is the customer always right?

The answer is “no”, as this isn’t feasible, but always treating customers with dignity and respect is crucial, regardless of whether they have a seemingly spurious demand. No matter what industry you work in, providing customer-centric service is the key to success.

Become a business where your customer comes first, with their satisfaction being at the core of your strategy, to provide positive experiences and build a long-term relationship. After all, they’re the reason you’re in business. They help with your marketing by recommending you to family and friends. Quite simply, without them, your company would fail.

It’s sensible to ensure they’re happy and satisfied with your services, but there’s a correct way of meeting customer expectations that benefits both your business and clients.

Employee training

Ask your team, “Why is it important to meet customer needs?” and they will certainly understand the reason behind keeping clients happy. The challenging part can be putting it into practice and making sure everyone’s on the same page.

Implementing employee training to ensure your team understands how to speak to customers can help avoid problems. While the customer isn’t going to be right in all situations, they should have the support of a skilled and knowledgeable service team who will do everything possible to meet their needs. Employees must learn how to leave every customer happy, even those with unrealistic expectations.

Many businesses use role-playing as a learning technique in training sessions. This can include asking employees to simulate a difficult meeting with an angry customer whose expectations of your company don’t align with your own. The trainer can help to fill knowledge gaps based on their interactions, pointing trainees in the right direction.

Role-playing incorporated into training sessions creates a safe environment, where team members can prepare for challenging situations and learn how to identify customer needs and expectations.

How to keep customers happy

Meeting the needs of customers means understanding they always have the right to have their issues heard. They should feel as if your team is listening to their concerns and taking them seriously. Even when a customer is angry, they still deserve to be considered, as they may have a genuine and serious grievance.

Provide a platform where they can share their opinion with you, such as a customer feedback survey. If it’s a negative experience, the customer deserves the opportunity to have their concerns rectified.

Every business must aim to facilitate a seamless experience throughout each step of the customer journey. If there’s friction, they’ll be unlikely to use your services again.

Customer journey mapping is a useful tool to ensure every issue is resolved quickly. Giving customers a feeling of empowerment will help them to be happy, making it more likely they will be loyal to your brand.

Always practice a customer-first mentality by remembering “the customer is always right” and then aligning this with your business’s mindset.

Any interactions with customers should never centre on who’s right and who’s wrong. Your business must focus on guiding customers down a preferred path to achieve their goals and your own. This means sympathising with their pain points, but if their solution is something your business can’t offer, redirecting them towards an achievable solution by discussing the options.

Reaffirm that you’re an ally who is on their side and acknowledge their frustration. Offer them something positive that you know you can provide, rather than making rash promises that you can’t keep, as ultimately, this creates more dissatisfaction.

Always be straightforward and honest with clients and remember, there’s no “one size fits all” solution to keeping people satisfied, so never compare one customer journey with another.

While there’s always going to be debate over whether the “customer is always right”, understanding the benefits of striking a balance between understanding their issues and providing an achievable solution is the key to success.

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