The Customer is Not Always Right: We never promised to make you happy, but we will do everything we promised.

Quote of the Week:

“Customer service is not a department. It is everyone’s job.” -Anonymous

Customer service has been entirely blown out of proportion. We always hear, “The customer is always right.” That simply can’t be the case because I’ve worked with customers whose requests were far beyond what the scope of the contract was. If in fact the customer is always right, that means your employees are always wrong.

I have found it easier at times to replace a customer than to replace my employee. I don’t necessarily buy into the fact that the customer is always right. You can make them think that they are right, but deep down we all know that the customer is not right in every case. Furthermore, you can’t always give them what they want. If they’re asking for something well above the scope of the contract, there is nothing that says you need to give that to them.

Do You Promise Happiness?

Customers have told me that they are not happy, to which I respond that I never promised happiness. I go through the contract and tell them that I have delivered or my company has delivered on what is written there.

We’ve all been to family reunions where there are three or four relatives who sit on the edges.  They have that look on their faces like they have been smelling bad cheese all day and have had that look for the last thirty years. You are never going to make that person happy. If you have set out to make every customer happy, good luck with that. That is a standard I have not set for my customers or my employees to achieve. Instead, we need to make clearly defined promises and fulfill those.

Let’s get out of the “Make them happy” business. What often happens is that we promise so much on the front end of a sale just to make that sale so that they expect the world. In fact, it’s the sale after the sale that counts. You need to have the same amount of enthusiasm servicing that account and providing the warranty that you had when you initially made the sale.

That is the biggest problem that I find with customers and clients. “When you were selling me the service, you told me you would do A, B, C, and D.  But now that I’m coming back a year later, you don’t want to do it.” You want to avoid that perception. This is where the quote comes in. It’s not a department, it’s everyone’s job. It’s something that you need to create in the culture of your business, which leads us into the first point.

1. Customer Service

Create a culture where serving the customer is paramount.

Simply put, your staff needs to know that what we’re trying to accomplish here is to meet the requests of our customers based on our guidelines, our commitment to our contract, our mission statement. Whatever you have posted or promised, your staff needs to know what that is and they need to know that they are encouraged to always fulfill that. We have all had to go back and return something or deal with a warranty issue and we knew we were never going to get anything. Have you ever gone back and known through the wording they were using that they’ve already figured out how to get out if it? That’s a perception you don’t want to give. From day one, create a culture where serving the customer is paramount.

2. Train your staff to genuinely listen to and handle a complaint.

The best advice I can ever give you is that when a customer is sharing a complaint, you shut your mouth. I don’t care if you make it into a game: it’s the be quiet game. Shut your mouth, nod to them to continue talking, and encourage them to get it all out, but DO NOT interrupt, interpret, or defend the company, yourself, or your employees. Your only goal is to listen and understand exactly where the problem lies. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t know what it is. Shut your mouth, let them talk, listen, and take notes.

When you train your staff, equip them to resolve the problem. Don’t make solving a problem a five-employee process.  For example, one employee says,“Let me call my manager.” and then the manager says, “Let me speak with the person in the eastern region.” Equip your staff to solve the problem as fast as they can at the most immediate level. It shouldn’t take five people to solve a problem. Train your staff to listen and equip them with this training to solve these problems.

3. Have customer service guidelines with goals.

You want to set a timeframe for how quickly customer problems will be solved. They should not linger for thirty days. All customer service problems should be resolved within 48 hours and if they can’t, then they go to level 2. You need to have a timeframe with a deadline defining how quickly you are going to resolve a customer issue.

Next, you need to determine, what is the outcome that defines success? This is the goal in our company: if our customer would not use us again, we have failed. We want to hear from their mouth in a survey that they would use us again. You need to define success for each and every customer service conversation or issue.

When creating these guidelines for customer service, make sure that you make deliverable promises. We can all get a little overboard. Dominos, for instance, promises that the pizza is going to be delivered in thirty minutes or less. We can picture the delivery drivers doing whatever it takes to make that happen and the problems, such as car accidents, that are created.

We need to make promises that they are deliverable. If you are creating start dates, give yourself a window or a little bit of flexibility. Whatever promises you are making, make sure that you can deliver on them systematically with the company that you presently have, not the company or the staff you wish you had. You make promises based on the company and the people you have on your team right now.

4. Setting clear expectation in writing

One more piece of advice: if you do contracts or if you have written language within your agreements, make sure that they are absolutely clear. A ten year old should be able to understand what you are promising. Bullet points with measurable items are always the best. Don’t use paragraphs describing your promises. When I tell the customer that I didn’t promise to make them happy, but I did promise A, B, C, and D,  I can show them the bullet points in the contract.

Finally, have a regular time to review complaints to see if there are any systematic problems with the way you are operating the business. If you see certain problem repeating themselves, they needs to be addressed.


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