Is the Customer Always Right?

We all know that in an economy where there is over-supply of virtually every product and service and in a world where the Internet makes information transparent, the customer is in charge. As you might know from reading this blog, I believe that designing and delivering a perfect customer experience is an essential business strategy.

But does that mean breaking the bank to satisfy customers? Of course not. None of us would be in business if we met every customer demand. The perfect customer experience is delivered to those customers who are most profitable. The business strategy must be designed with "tiered experiences" that are appropriate and reasonable for each cluster of customers.

Now, what do you do about abusive customers? We all have them. Customers who demand unfairly, who scream and shout and get ugly. Customers who bring contact center representatives to their knees in tears or reverse anger. There’s no delivering a perfect customer experience to such customers. Customers with abusive behavior need a special level of handling. They sense entitlement. They sense power. And they often become insensitive to the fact that an experience is a mutual responsibility.

Lior Arussy has written a summary of a CEM Seminar he recently attended where the conversation centered around how to handle abusive customers. He suggests that often abusive behavior is a result of ineffective communication and sometimes it is a result of bad corporate policy that when changed can improve customer experience. His seminar notes are excellent, but Lior’s challenge to us is even more thought-provoking:

I would like to extend the seminar challenge to you. Write down your division/department/group policies and regulations in a clear and concise manner on one page of paper. While writing them, ask yourself whether they are logical and serve to strengthen customer relationships. Think about their intention – whether they exist to protect the company, lower costs or enhance the customer experience. Always keep in mind that policies and procedures should benefit customers. If they do not, go back to the drawing board and start from scratch. The inability to convince customers that policies and procedures exist for their benefit is a recipe for long-term failure. Remember, the goal is to persuade customers, not coerce them.

Most policies and procedures fail to empower customers. Rather, they exacerbate customers’ feelings of inferiority and helplessness. Policies are often written in legal jargon and in a confusing manner – leading to an increase tensions with customers (even when you aren’t actually ‘speaking to them’). Connect with customers by using the language of persuasion, not coercion. Rather than outlining the consequences of failing to adhere to policies and procedures, explain the benefits of following them. Speak to customers with language that they will understand so that they feel in control. Through intelligent and simple communication with customers, organisations will be able to build cooperative and profitable relationships based on mutual honesty and respect.

Good advice, Lior. Thanks for sharing it … if you want to read Lior’s full article, go here

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