The Customer Is Always Right: Wrong…

“The Customer is always right”…. Right? WRONG!  That phrase, the customer is always right, raises the hair on the back of my neck.

I have spent the better part of my adult life on both sides of customer service interactions as the Customer and as the service representative. I can tell you from experience the customer is not always right.

If a customer service representative speaks that phrase or even thinks it they are doing the customer a great disservice and selling themselves, as a service provider, short. As a customer seeking service do we want a “yes-man” or do we want someone to evaluate our needs and offer solutions? As a service representative does one want to be gopher or a problem solver?

Service representatives should be held accountable for listening and understanding both our stated needs and unstated needs. They must approach us as partners where anything less than a win-win result is a failure for both parties as well as a failure for the company they represent. Likewise customers must hold themselves accountable for effective communications and for clearly stating our needs and expectations at the beginning of the interaction. We too must be a partner with the goal of a win-win. If we allow ourselves to think that solely because we are “The Customer” we are always right then we have limited the potential for highly effective outcomes.

The service experience is more important than the outcome. Think about that for a minute. Have you ever had an experience where you paid more for a service or product when you could have bought it for less some where else?  You probably did so because the experience you had at the company that offered the same product a lower price was a negative one, or the experience at the shop with the higher prices was significantly more pleasurable.  As customers we will drive farther, wait longer, pay higher prices and even settle for less quality in the product if the service experience is effective, efficient, and positive.

This concept of the service experience should be taken seriously by companies seeking to differentiate themselves. Why? Because customers make an emotional investment, as well as a financial investment,  when purchasing products and services.  The higher the price the deeper the emotional investment factor (EIF) becomes.  Managing the EIF becomes tricky, especially when the customer is “wrong”.  Employees most adept at navigating this challenging service terrain are typically intelligent, instinctive, nimble, and highly motivated.  These types of employees command, as they should, a higher than average salary and unfortunately that’s the challenge for so many companies we deal with in our every day lives.

Whether you’re a small local company with a receptionist who handles “the phones” or Dell Computers with thousands and thousands of service reps, headcount is typically the biggest number in your budget and it is seems to be increasingly compelling for CEO’s and CFO’s to discount service in an effort to increase the bottom line. Unfortunately, the question for the shop owner and the CEO too often becomes: “how much dissatisfaction can we afford?”

Don’t accept poor service. Don’t accept poor service! Hold companies accountable to meeting your (reasonable) needs and share the responsibility for making sure you get it.  As customers we are definitely are not always right.  But we do deserve a quality interaction with a representative who is willing and empowered to partner with us to affect positive and pleasurable outcomes.

So remember.  Regardless of which side of the interaction you are on:  it’s not always about the outcome… it’s about the experience.

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