How to Run a Business When the Customer Is Always Right

Jonathan Bossenger / January 21, 2019

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We’ve all heard the phrase, “the customer is always right.” The accuracy of this statement is a widely debated topic. An Inc. article states that a customer may not always be right.

However, the fact remains that when a customer complains, it’s important for small business owners to respond quickly and respectfully. The ability to manage complaints is an important factor in building a successful brand — even when “the customer is always right” proves to be a false statement.

Establish points of contact

Talking to your customers and providing them with ways to give you feedback is arguably the most important aspect of growing your business.

In this digital age, word-of-mouth opinions spread much faster than they used to. You want to encourage customers to direct all issues to you (before they go to their Twitter followers).

Using contact forms and connecting your site to social media accounts are great ways to give customers access to your inbox.

Make sure to place contact forms in places on your site where visitors are likely to find them. Good places include your homepage or on product and service pages. Site visitors should not have to struggle to find a way to contact you.

Manage expectations

It’s useful to clearly communicate when people should expect to receive a response from you. This will manage customers’ expectations so they don’t get upset if it takes a few days for you to reply.

For example, stating on your contact form that all messages will be responded to within 24-48 hours can make people feel better when waiting for a response (and it’ll make you look good if you respond sooner than expected).

Using a service such as If This Then That to set up automatic replies to contact form submissions can also be a good method for providing customers with a time frame for responses.

Follow up

Contact forms and automatic replies are of no use if no one follows up on them.

Consider dedicating an hour each morning to checking feedback from your contact forms and social media accounts. When dealing with complaints, the most important thing to do is listen to the customer. If someone takes the time to submit a complaint, they must feel strongly about their concern.

Read what they have to say carefully and make sure you understand the problem. If something isn’t clear, ask for more information. If you fully understand the problem, you’ll be able to deal with it better.

Don’t take complaints personally or interpret them as attacks on your brand. Try to see them as opportunities for improvement. If a customer complains about your service, you are being given a chance to address it before anything hinders your business in the long term.

Learn when to step back

Of course, not every complaint is going to be useful. Some folks will just complain for the sake of complaining.

In these cases, it’s important to take a step back and let them know that you have done all you can to assist them. It feels counter-intuitive, but a toxic customer can be more trouble than they are worth. The reality is, you can’t win them all.

Whether customer complaints are valid or not, how you handle them will impact the success of your business. Working in a customer-facing role can be challenging, but pulling off service wins makes everything worth it.

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