When the Customer Isn’t Always Right

Posted by Deepshikha Shukla

5-minute read (1,000 words)

It’s been said that the customer is always right, but any entrepreneur will agree that this isn’t always the case. Regardless of the business sector, customers can sometimes be wrong about their demands, behavior and feedback.

Avoid Pitting Customers Vs. Employees


Rather than assuming the customer is always right, a better solution is to position yourself as the expert. Do this pleasantly, and help customers understand the best ways to utilize your product or service. Customers must get the message that, although they are important, you are the subject matter expert in this situation.

The message that the customer is always right can pit employees against management and customers. If an organization favors the customer and disregards the opinions and expertise of its employees, it causes resentment among the team. The more you support your employees, the better customer service they’ll provide to your clients. There may be situations when a customer isn’t right, and you need to handle these situations tactfully. Here are a few examples to guide you.

When Customer Demand Is Unreasonable

When a customer is unhappy because your product doesn’t do precisely what they thought it would or they have destroyed the product by using it inadequately, help them understand the real problem rather than giving in to their demands.

Some customers will continue to complain and never be satisfied, no matter how much time you dedicate to solving their problems or how many favors you grant them. For instance, when a customer agrees to a data center service for only final data and keeps asking for interim data in between, they engage more time and resources. This doesn't mean you shouldn't still treat customers with the utmost respect and care. Instead, you should stand firm in situations where the customer is disagreeing or demanding something you can't deliver and handle the request in a cordial manner.

Feeling guilty and culpable for such customers is unwise and it negatively affects your business. If you've done your best to address the issues of a customer, you should close the matter and move on.

When the Customer Claims to Be an Expert

Often, customers try to establish that they know better and work to share opinions and advice on how the business should run or the product or service should work. Guide such customers on what they need and about the product or service you offer. There are many fields such as medicine, accounting and public safety — where giving people exactly what they think they want can be destructive.

When the Customer Is Abusive or Unethical

Assuming the customer is always right makes the employees’ jobs much harder when trying to deal with them. Just because customers buy a product or service does not give them the right to abuse your employees. It is a simple matter of respect and dignity and of treating your employees the right way. You must inform customers that while you value them, you won’t let them abuse your employees.

If a customer persistently complains, abuses employees or creates stress for your company, they’re not worth it. It is better to let go of such a "problem customer" who involves a very high quantity of resources than to add to employee stress levels. Dropping problem customers may cost you a little revenue in the short term, but it’s better for the long-term outlook of your business.

When Customer Aims to Take Unfair Advantage

If you make any changes to your business policy, product or service, you will probably get some initial backlash, even if the change is for the better. If you consider the customer always right, you may not be able to make healthy improvements to your business.

How to Deal with Problem Customers

If your customer feedback isn't right, your employees should have the authority to deal with them appropriately. You can deal with problem customers by considering any of the following strategies.

● Reduce Services — Identify the behavior on the part of your customer that makes them unfit for your business. The easiest and best solution will be an explicit conversation that can illustrate how you and your customer could work together more cohesively.

● Increase Pricing — Revising pricing and policies to serve problem customers may transform them into profitable ones, or they may take their business elsewhere. Either way, this could solve your problem.

● Open Dialogue — This could lead to a healthy working relationship or an amicable parting of the ways. Find out how customers got into a particular situation, and fix the root cause and remediate the customer situation so they don't need to be fired. In some situations, this can be the best course of action by using the following steps:

  1. Document the customer's negative impact on your business systems, profitability or morale, and define what changes could resolve the problem.
  2. Make customers aware of the unsustainable impact of their demands on your business. Politely present facts and suggest to them how to improve the situation.
  3. Listen carefully to customers’ issues and discuss whether they are willing to accept revised policies or fees to overcome the problems.

● Preemptive Steps — You can preemptively avoid customer issues with strategic customer onboarding. Identify any patterns between problem customers, such as a certain size or a certain industry that tends to cause more issues. The better you become at avoiding problem customers from the beginning, the less time you will waste handling them in the future.

● Support Employees — If your staff is well trained, has adequate authority to make decisions and solve problems and the necessary resources to meet reasonable customer needs, then you'll end up with higher customer satisfaction.

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