“The customer is always right.”
If you ever worked in retail or the food industry, it’s likely you’ve heard “the customer is always right” on more than one occasion. This phrase stems from the belief that happy customers will be returning customers, and is often used to discourage any action that may leave a sour taste with patrons.
After my early days of working in retail, I learned very quickly that the customer isn’t always right. Many customers will do whatever they can for a free product or a full refund, even when their circumstances do not fall under these categories of reparation. That being said, customers are very aware of the “customer is always right” mantra, and will often use that as their basis of what to expect from your customer service efforts. For example, a person ordering a hamburger at a fast-food chain will expect a free replacement if their burger isn’t delivered exactly as ordered. In this situation, the customer’s issue is resolved quickly and easily, and they perceive their experience as excellent because of how easily it was handled.
While hamburgers are relatively easy to replace, the same cannot be said for more expensive products. There will be times when you’ll need to give your customers news they don’t want to hear, making it critical that you deliver the news delicately. Customers don’t like to feel blamed for issues with products they ordered, and they don’t want to be accused of lying when they tell your customer support team about the issue. In short, customers want to feel like their issue is being taken care of diligently and fairly, whether or not they get the answer they want to hear.
Customer satisfaction comes down to the customer’s perception of their experience with your company.
If they had an enjoyable shopping experience, if their item was delivered on time, and if their product works and looks as described, they’ll typically perceive the experience as enjoyable. However, customers who receive broken products or products that don’t match their online descriptions will have a different perception of their shopping experience, and it’s up to you to change their minds.
In order to understand customer perception, think about a transaction you’ve made that resulted in less-than-stellar results. Maybe you received the wrong product, or maybe a product you received was broken as soon as you took it out of the packaging. Think back to the emotions you felt as soon as you realized your disappointment, and recall how that business handled your issue.
If you had a positive experience with that company’s customer service team, that means they were able to successfully change your perception of the experience by using the right customer service tactics. If you recall having a negative experience, the company’s customer service likely left you high and dry, without a proper resolution to the problem.
It all begins with showing the customer that you care about their issue. Customers want to feel like a priority to companies from which they purchase their products.
Ensure your customers that you are investigating the issue, and let them know you are finding out what options may be available to them. Don’t sound negative when you are delivering this information, but instead sound confident that you will be able to find a resolution that works for both the customer and your company. In addition, it’s absolutely vital that you sympathize with the customer over their current situation, as this will allow them to perceive the issue as an honest mistake – not negligence.
Perception is largely defined by the language used in one situation or another, and customer service is no different. Instead of telling customers what you can’t do for them, use positive language to better communicate what you can do for them.
For example, don’t say “We can’t refund you today, it’ll take up to a week for the refund process to complete and transfer the money back into your account” to a customer in need of a refund. Instead, say “We’ve just sent your refund request, and you expect to see the funds returned to your account within the next 5-7 day.” Each of these sentences conveys the same information, but the latter is far more likely to leave customers with a positive perception of the interaction they had with your customer service department. The customer knows something is being done about the issue, and they can expect results as soon as possible.
Of course, there’s no way to please everyone, and there will be times you cannot offer customers the exact resolution they were hoping for when they called your customer service department. Sometimes customers ask for resolutions that are simply against company policy, and you’ll have to be tactful when presenting a more realistic solution.
Again, don’t tell customers what you can’t do for them, but instead, focus on any solutions you can offer them. Present your solution as an alternative to the customer’s proposed solution, using positive language to convey your point. The customer may not be happy that they aren’t getting their way, but they’ll appreciate the effort you’ve put into helping them, and they’ll understand that any solution is better than no solution.
How do you give customers a positive customer service experience? Are there any tactics on improving customer perceptions that we missed? Have you had any experiences where excellent customer service completely changed your perception of a company or a transaction? Let us know in the comments below!