The customer isn't always right, but is always the customer

Years ago, I used to facilitate a customer service training program for my employer called "Customer is King". One of my favorite lessons from the program was "The customer is always the customer." In other words, the customer may not always be right, but the customer is still the customer and should always be treated with respect and courtesy.

I'm not sure why so many people insist on arguing with customers, but they do.  Yesterday, I called a technical support line because my emails were coming in slowly and some were missing.  The rep told me that everything was working fine and I shouldn't be having any problems. "Well, I am. So what can we do about it?"

The rep replied, "Well, it says here on an update that I have that the problem has been resolved."

To which I responded, "I'm still experiencing the problem, so I guess your update doesn't apply to me. What can be done to fix the problem I'm experiencing?"

We went back and forth several times before the rep finally agreed to send me a test email.  Sure enough, it took much longer than normal to go through.  That was enough to convince the rep to look into it a bit more.  He promised to investigate and get back to me by the end of the day.  (He didn't follow-up, so perhaps there was a misunderstand about which day we were referring to when we agreed on "end of the day".)

Argument Alternatives

Yes, sometimes the customer is wrong. Here are some suggestions to help you move forward without forgetting the customer is still the customer.

  • Focus on the solution, not the blame. OK, so there is a problem and we don't agree who is at fault. Fine. What can be done to fix it?
  • Avoid disparaging the customer. IT professionals love to label problems ID 10 T issues.  In other words, ID10T, or "idiot".  Putting a customer down after the fact may relieve some tension, but it promotes an "us vs. them" mentality that can be damaging.
  • Learn from it. A customer's confusion or error may signal an opportunity to improve communication or provide more resources or information that could help prevent future customers from experiencing a similar misunderstanding.