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The Customer is Always Heard


The "customer is always right" - a business cliché - has the right heart, but the wrong direction. It's not that the customer is always right. Sometimes, the customer is wrong. Everyone knows that.

By saying the "customer is always right," it's an effort to try and satisfy the customer. Satisfied customers come back, you see. Therein lies the logic.

Any business transaction should satisfy the customer - obviously - but it should also satisfy the company. No company stays in business that tries to satisfy everyone by giving away the store.

The right direction is that customers should always be heard. Whether a customer is right or wrong, what matters is that they matter. Customers feel significant and respected when they feel that a company has listened to them.

"Hello... ABC Plumbing? This is Mrs. Jones."
"Hi Mrs. Jones. What can I do for you?"
"You overcharged me."
ABC Plumbing could simply give in to Mrs. Jones and take off the amount perceived as overcharged. After all, the "customer is always right" - right?

There's a better way to move ahead with this.

"We overcharged you? I'd like to know more about that. Do you have your statement handy? I'd like to walk through it with you."
"Yes, I have it right here."
"Tell me the part that you feel is incorrect, if you would."
"It says here that your man worked for 3 hours. That's not true. He was only here for 2 hours."
"I see on my system here that Jason did the work for you that day. I'd like to call him and ask him about this. What's a convenient time to call you back?"
"I'll be home this afternoon."
"I appreciate that you brought this to my attention, Mrs. Jones. Let's get to the truth about this."
"I'll call you back at 2:00. Thank you for contacting us about it."
"Yes. I look forward to getting this corrected."
At this point, whether the time charged her is correct or not, Mrs. Jones has been made a partner with the company in solving her problem. Getting to the truth - whether accurate or not - is now the mission. She knows that the company has completely heard her side of it. She feels valued and important. And if the bill was accurate and she's wrong, Mrs. Jones is more apt to agree to the truth.

Taking the time to listen and then taking action on their behalf cements customer loyalty, not give-aways and subservience. The business owner's chief responsibility to employees and customers is to sustain the business. Listening is the best path for continued success.


Tags: business | listening
by Brett Rogers, 6/25/2007 3:39:18 PM


Brett... let's take this a little further ;) What if it turns out that "Jason" insists he was there for three hours, and "Mrs. Jones" sticks to her contention that it was only two? Assuming all things equal and there is no documentation on either side to support the differing claims, would you suggest the business owner a). strike an hour from the bill because "the customer is always right"; b). insist Mrs. Jones pay the full bill; or c). Offer to split the difference with her? And if she declines that offer, then what? :) I think "hearing" the customer is really only half the battle. How does the business stand behind its employee, and satisfy the customer? ~ Janet



Posted by Janet Green (, 6/25/2007 5:33:09 PM

I remember my many pt jobs in retail and always hated the whole 'customer is always right' thing, just because (as you may have noticed ;->) I hate being wrong, and it automatically puts an antagonistic spin on your interaction. In my experience, even if the customer is wrong, as long as you treat them with dignity and respect, even if they don't get the outcome they were looking for, they walk away happy and come back. Of course, the ones that you can't make happy...well, you usually cave to them, again, this is just in my expereince. Whether you like it or not, there will always be a certain amount of giveaway and subservience. That's why it's called customer service. The squeaky wheel does get the's worth it to just make them go away. Cockeyed optimist that I am, however, I believe that most people in situations like this want what is right, not just to be right.



Posted by Bella, 6/25/2007 11:29:12 PM

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