Haley Bucelewicz | 11.17.16
Summary >

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Since the early 20th century, the Golden Rule of business has been: “The customer is always right.” So if a customer says he ordered a steak and not a salad (even though the waitress is sure she heard salad), he gets a salad. And if a customer says the HVAC system you just installed isn’t working (he just didn’t know how to use it) you better turn back around anyway.

But is the customer really always right? The easy answer is no. No one is right about everything—that’s what makes us human. But whether the customer is right or wrong, you want them to feel valued and helped. So the answer really is: the customer should always feel like he or she is in the right. If you cater to your customer, they’ll be happy with your service. And companies that provide a positive customer experience outperform competitors by 80-percent.

So even though technically the customer isn’t always right, it’s profitable for your business to believe they are. If you don’t give the customer what they want, what’s stopping them from finding a new service provider that will? By following this rule, you have a better chance at improving your customer lifetime value.

With this logic in mind you might be thinking, why is customer service still bad at some companies? You’ve surely experienced poor customer service in your lifetime. You’ve probably been caught in an endless phone loop trying to teach technical support. And you’ve most likely waited long appointment windows for your cable guy to arrive.

That’s because companies tend to think in the short term. They want to see a fast return on investment. And since customer service doesn’t produce revenue right away, some companies don’t see the value of investing in it.

One argument against the customer always being right is that customers will drain your limited resources. But good customer service is profitable in the long term. If a customer has a problem with your service, listen, apologize, and fix the problem. They will be grateful for the positive experience and will come back for more. You might sacrifice resources in the process, but think about the long-term costs of poor customer service. You could lose customers to competitors with better service, and face reputational damage.

As with every rule, there are exceptions. There will be customers who take advantage of the customer is always right rule. People can be dishonest—it’s another trait that makes us human. And you’re going to face difficult customers. No matter how many times you cater to their needs, they will still be unsatisfied.

It’s important to think about employee satisfaction too. Employees might feel devalued by a difficult customer. And if management always takes the customer’s side, they might feel devalued by the company too. Research shows happy employees are productive employees. When customers get in the way of this, they’re probably not a good fit you’re your company anyway.

But don’t just give up on rude customers. If you try your best to fix their issue, you’ve done your job correctly. And even if a customer decides not to return, it’s not a waste of your time. Customer feedbackis always valuable. Remember that it’s the customers who define the market and set trends. Take advantage of customer feedback to improve your business and learn what customers want in service. And always ask yourself what you can do differently to avoid a similar problem in the future.

In the end, whether the customer is actually right is irrelevant. Customer service should always be at the forefront of your business model. To provide good customer service, you must put yourself in the shoes of the customer. Follow the mantra, “treat customers the way they want to be treated.” And take customer feedback seriously. Welcome criticism the way you would compliments, because it’s something you can learn from.

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