15 tactics to use when the customer isn’t always right

April 21, 2016

If the customer isn’t always right, how do you tell them they’re wrong?

This cartoon says it all. The customer is always right, but we’ll decide if you’re a customer or not. Do you sometimes feel that way? The phrase “the customer is always right” is generally attributed to Marshall Field of Marshall Field’s department store in Chicago. Retail at the turn of the 20th century was known for corruption and another phrase “buyer beware” was the norm. Field’s slogan was his way of standing out from the crowd as trustworthy. You know how it is, you are trying to appease someone and they refuse to meet you even half way. It would be nice to be able to say, “Okay, that’s it, you are no longer a customer!” When the customer isn’t always right, find the proper way to tell them they’re wrong.

15 Tactics for handling the customer who isn’t always right

  1. Know your products, customer and consignor policies, and business procedures inside and out. You need to know more about your business than anyone else.
  2. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes, swallow your pride and don’t waste your time defending your store’s policies.
  3. Have a sincere apologetic attitude. You’re not necessarily apologizing for a specific problem, but apologizing for the fact that there is confusion, disagreement, etc.
  4. Choose to win the customer not the argument.
  5. Recognize some people are better at negotiating than others. Put those employees in charge of customer complaints.
  6. Compassionately state that it may be time to take their business elsewhere if you can’t meet their needs.
  7. Empower yourself and your employees to negotiate a favorable outcome not just say “no.”
  8. Ask as many questions as possible. Your goal is to find out what is really at the bottom of the complaint.
  9. Verbally repeat the customer’s statement so they know you listened.
  10. Show respect not only in your voice but with your body language too. No folded arms, raised chin or scowling mouth.
  11. Deal with issues immediately. Don’t let them fester with either yourself or the customer.
  12. Remember to follow up quickly if you’ve told the customer you need to speak with a manager or the owner.
  13. When responding online, keep your response short and to the point. Handle everything with integrity.
  14. When you can’t solve the problem, be prepared to offer a consolation prize. A free gift, a discount or other special offer can go along way in saying “I want to keep your business.”
  15. Communicate clearly to your staff where your loyalty lies and that you will support them when challenged wrongly. They need to be respected too.

Knowing the customer isn’t always right has been around a long time

In the early 1900’s many magazines and newspapers wrote about the new “customer is always right” phenomenon. Good Housekeeping December, 1909 offered an article titled “When Woman Buys.” The author quotes a department store staff member, “…our policy of regarding the customer as always right, no matter how wrong she may be in any transaction in the store, is the principle that builds up the trade. She is wrong, of course, lots of times. She takes advantage of privileges accorded her; she is inconsiderate of the earnest efforts of sales people; she causes delay and loss through carelessness or ignorance, but it all goes down in the budget of expenses for running the store, and is covered, like other expenses, in the price of the goods.”

Not much has changed in the last 107 years, eh? Looking to build a little customer loyalty? Read, What drives customer loyalty for your consignment shop?



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