“The customer is always right”– a phrase I come across often, especially when working on delivering a service, in both B2B and B2C space. Through my experiences I have come across a peculiar mindset, where some people think that by virtue of paying for a service, they can command whatever they want.
There have been instances on social media where companies have suffered heavy losses because of doing some wrong or the other to their customer(s). As is true for most aspects of running a business, this is not always the case.
Companies and service providers chant on “Customer is always right” because acting otherwise is bound to bring considerable harm to their reputation. A not-so-happy customer going around, talking malicious crap about one’s product or service- the very thought of it makes businesses fearful. Needless to say, they have no choice but to comply with whatever is being demanded.
It is, then, unsurprising that some consumers have come to take undue advantage of this fear, taking to asking irrational refunds and complimentary services, among others.
Consider a huge company like Uber, which cannot undertake investigating each and every complaint made to them. From personal experience, I have known people who have had their grievances addressed within hours of being raised, and more often than not, their money refunded. Bottomline, when it comes to people, they lie, but the customer is always right.
A photographer friend, Shelly (name changed), was contracted by a restaurant to click about 50 pictures of their food offerings. After the shoot wrapped up, the owner commanded 100 pictures to be handed over. Shelly had to comply, succumbing to a simple argument by the owner- act as asked or be ready to be bad-talked in the restaurant community. Bad reputation is a strong coercive agent, one has to agree.
However, it is time that people draw the thin line between customer feedback and customer threats. Here are a few tips to freelancers and businesses, curated from my own experience:
1. Listen to the customer, not personally but professionally!
Giving an earful to someone’s grievances is a great exercise, but draw the line between professional and personal. The moment you move from the former to the latter, the emotions will mess with your ability to deliver the right solution.
2. Don’t argue but make them understand.
Engaging in a noisy spat will only go against you, even when the blame is not yours. Being diplomatic helps, and make it a point to nicely explain the ‘why’ of the situation. It will give them an insight about how things work and what went wrong.
3. Get your docs in place
Sign a short agreement to make them aware of the terms and conditions beforehand. If something goes wrong or when there’s a misunderstanding, both of you will have the agreement to go back to.
3. Never lose dignity.
Being paid by someone does not make you responsible for delivering each and every whim. Understand that it is an equal transaction, where both the parties gain something. While you gain the money, the customer gains the service.
4. Reply on social media, like a boss.
Social platforms have provided an unregulated space for bashing someone’s reputation. If there is a causeless negative review, reply. Be polite, breakdown their concern, and explain how you are not to be blamed. The power of social media rests as much with you as it does with the others.
5. If you are sure you’re not wrong…
THEN JUST WORRY. PERIOD. (jk)
If there’s anything you want to add from your experience, please feel free to share it with me on firstname.lastname@example.org.