The Customer Is Not Always Right
Common wisdom says the best customer service develops from an attitude that the customer is always right. We strive to please, excite, impress, and delight customers as the key to earning more business and competing in the marketplace.
Here’s the problem. The customer is not always right. Sometimes the customer is irrational, entitled, dependent, arrogant, helpless, or naive. They have unrealistic demands, haven’t read the instructions, and don’t want to take responsibility for their choices. They expect us to make their lives painless and easy.
We are largely responsible for this problem because we have forgotten that all customers are worthwhile, capable, and accountable.
Drama-Based Customer Relationships
Customer drama comes come in three different forms, all playing off each other in a dirty dance.
The Persecutor customer attacks and blames you, hoping you will feel bad and give them something they didn’t buy or earn. Rather than authentically expressing their feelings and asking for help to solve the problem, they try to intimidate you and question your motives. They are oblivious to your efforts to help and can’t hear anything except their own assumptions.
The Victim customer is helpless and avoids confronting the problem. They assume they are at fault and don’t tell you the truth about what’s going on, therefore preventing you from being able to really help address the issue.
The Rescuer customer thinks they know best and can tell you how to do your job. They don’t respect your expertise or experience. They never ask curious questions that might help them understand what’s really going on.
Distressed customers aren’t the problem though. The problem is when we accept their invitation into drama and stop treating them as equal partners. Persecutor and Rescuer customers are looking for victims who will give in, make concessions, and fail to hold them accountable. Victim customers are looking for Rescuers to do all the thinking and doing for them so as to reinforce their dependence, or Persecutors to attack them for being ungrateful and stupid.
Transform Customer Relationships with Compassionate Accountability®.
You can transform drama-based customer relationships into partnerships by practicing compassionate accountability. One way to do this is by using these three compassion skills: Openness, Resourcefulness, and Persistence.
Openness is about acknowledging tough feelings, validating a customer’s experience without condoning anyone’s behavior. It’s not about right vs.wrong, it’s about empathy and validation.
“I can tell how upset you are. I would hate it if my prom dress didn’t fit after I’d spent this much money on alterations.”
“I hear you. You are caught between your customer and us, wanting to deliver a finished product, yet a lot of it is out of your control. I can see how frustrating this is.”
Resourcefulness is about curiosity; seeking first to understand. It’s less about trying to figure out how to fix the apparent problem, and more about learning what the customer is going through with open ended questions.
“When do you need to have the dress ready to go?”
“What are the most important deliverables that are causing stress between you and your customer?”
Persistence is about making and honoring commitments. These may be new commitments you make to the customer around helping them through this challenge, or clarity around your own non-negotiables. Beware, however, not to fall back on rules or regulations as a way to avoid staying connected as a partner. Saying to a customer, “Sorry, that’s our policy. There’s nothing I can do about it,” implies you have abandoned them as a partner.
“I promise to get with the alterations manager and call you today with some suggestions on how we can make this right and meet your deadline.”
“We are committed to focusing on the things that can best help you be confident in what you are promising your client.”
Compassion is about struggling with your customers instead of against them. Here are a few principles to avoid drama-based customer relationships and transform conflict into healthy, loyal partnerships that last.
- We are both worthwhile, capable and accountable.
- You are OK, I am OK.
- I care about what you are experiencing.
- We can each contribute to finding a solution.
- Our integrity and value as human beings is important.