The Customer is Always Wrong.. Just Don’t Tell Them


Whoever said the customer is always right? I’m 100%  sure that if they were in my position dealing with customers all day everyday they’d soon change their minds and admit that they were in fact wrong. In my world the customer is never right.

Of course telling a customer they’re wrong is never a good idea. Not just for ideological reasons, but practical ones too. Telling a customer they are wrong will almost always descend into the telephonic equivalent of a bar-room brawl and soon becomes a spectacle. One of my colleagues last week must have spent at least twenty minutes arguing with a customer they pointed out was in the wrong whilst the rest of the centre struggled to keep their minds on dealing with their callers as they listened intently and it has to be said judgementally; losing control of a call being the sign of a bad operator.

The golden rule is to stay objective and detached at all times which means dismissing notions of right or wrong. Ok, so the customer messed up their online order all by themselves and are now screaming at me about it in a fit of righteous indignation. Telling them they are wrong would only mean them coming back with how they feel the system should have anticipated their stupidity and had a failsafe (in case you are wondering this example is drawn from experience). In any case they are almost certainly wrong, but to tell them this directly is to risk the ‘blame-game’ which had sucked my colleague waist-deep into its stinky quagmire. No, a good operator remains objective and simply skirts around the issue of right and wrong whenever possible moving direct to the solution.

But sometimes telling a caller they are wrong is hard to avoid; for instance one firm I take calls for adheres closely to the  ‘customer is always right’ philosophy offering a no-quibble complete satisfaction guarantee which covers almost all eventualities thus avoiding any need for blame to be apportioned. However, at the opposite end of the spectrum another firm uses a lot of  small-print to hoodwink customers enticing them into its clutches with too-good-to-be true offers; a business model made famous by Ryanair. As an operator you know the customer is probably, at least morally speaking, in the right, but the company and small print state categorically they are in the wrong. All this right and wrong gets very confusing.

sometimes it’s clear-cut. I had one this week; a man phoned and told me he had ordered a jacket which he now wished to return, he spoke to someone in our office who said they would send a pre-paid label. This had not arrived and he was phoning to find where it had got to. ‘Um, I’m not sure we do jackets’ I told him ‘You must do, I spoke to Jane a few days ago and she told me she’d send me a label’ was the response the indignant tone suggesting I was wrong. I was pretty sure we didn’t do jackets, but then there was a Jane here, he had the number and the clients business is built around importing random container loads of  goods from China from teddy bears to pillows and deep fat fryers. As I’m always the last to know anything really could be possible. I keyed in his postcode and hit return.. blank. Oh crap.

I tried again with the caller’s name, still nothing. Ok I’ll try the postcode again… the caller repeats this loudly and deliberately slowly. I can tell he’s getting annoyed now. I’ve mentioned before, but this always happens when someone can’t be found on the system. They take it as a personal affront, as if me not finding an electronic record means they will suddenly cease to exist a bit like the bit in Back to the Future where Marty McFly has a Polaroid photo of his family and having messed about with the past is slowly fading out of the picture.

Still nothing.. “well I spoke to Jane” the caller reiterates “adding “you had an advert in the Mirror a couple of weeks ago”. I spot an opening “do you have a copy of the advert” I say hoping it hasn’t been consigned to the dustbin. “Actually I do” he says. The caller retrieves the ad. “Does it have a company name on it anywhere” I ask. “yes it says Premier Man”.  Definitely not us, but convincing the caller I was right would be another matter the caller refusing to believe me “but it has your number he said” adding “what is your number?” This may seem strange, but  I deal with at least 10 companies and have no idea of their numbers.  I scrabbled about on my desktop for the link to the external website I’d be able to get the info off that…, but then suddenly….

“oh, I’m sorry, I do beg your pardon..”

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