Devan Moonsamy 

On a daily basis, businesses deal with disgruntled customers over their service or product. If customers find the taste of product not up to the standards that they are familiar with then, they complain. If a sales agent has promised them a timeous delivery on goods and fails to meet that promise, there is a complain. There are always circumstances that result in customers feeling frustrated and underwhelmed by services that don’t meet their expectations. 

Customer service standards need to be at an exceptional level now more than ever, as businesses get back on their feet post the disruptions brought by Covid-19. However, there are still many businesses that are missing the mark of satisfied customers due to a variety of reasons. 

Staff are always in the firing line of a disgruntled customer. It could be the lack of effort to close a sale, sometimes it might even be the product of the business that is not what it is cut out to be that leads to the complaint. Whatever the reason for a disgruntled customer, businesses highlight that the customer is always right. 

The idea that the customer is always right can be demotivating and frustrating for staff. It can leave them feeling undervalued and often disengaged from the business’s values, as no matter what the customer does, it is always their version that is accepted over the staff member. Getting your team to see the concept behind the customer being right can cause tension with team members. 

During our customer training sessions, the point that always comes up is how can the customer always be right? Why is it that the customer is always right? 

The short answer is yes! The customer is always right. The reasoning behind this is: 

  • Customers are the fuel for our business. Without their business, the organisation will not be able to operate. This will result in the inability to pay salaries. As a result, there will be job losses. 
  • Good customer service has a direct impact on profitability. If a customer is happy with the service we have provided and our products are great in terms of quality, they will tell others about it and this will bring in more business for us. 
  • When we ensure our customers are happy, we don’t just cement a relationship with them as a customer. Rather, they would become a committed customer. A committed customer would choose us time and time again because we have built a solid foundation with them ensuring we meet and exceed their expectations. 

As much as these points highlight the reality that customers are always right, we should not be taking the saying literally. There are cases when the customer is in the wrong. An item can’t be returned without and invoice and tags. If they don’t have these, we won’t be able to assist them. 

It is these policies and processes that must be explained politely and efficiently to customers. The aim of a business must be to ensure customer satisfaction. However, there should be room for assessment and evaluation of the disgruntled customers woes. A staff member should never have to be humiliated by a customer under the policy the customer is always right. 

Here are a few ways to train staff on how to handle disgruntled customers while keeping the motto the customer is always right in mind: 

  • When a customer becomes abusive and hurls insult, staff need to know how to handle this. They should not be treated this way yet customers can often lash out and speak in an unacceptable tone. The key here is to remain calm. Staff should not retaliate with name calling and harshness. They should remain calm and firm. Once this escalates to the point that the customer is abusive verbally, a manager must be roped in to assist the staff member. 
  • Listen to your customer. Customers often feel that the staff member is not listening to them. Don’t find yourself missing information. Ensure you are actively listening and making notes of the customer’s concern. A lack of listening can be a further frustration to the already upset customer. 
  • Never tell a customer to calm down. Avoid using words implying they are wrong. Try not to say, ”it is not my fault”. Remember, you are a brand ambassador for your organisation. Whatever you say, represents the company you work for. Ensure that you are not throwing anyone under the bus. The customer can be reassured by informing them that you understand what they are going through. Empathise with them. 
  • Training is key. Unlock your staff potential by ensuring they receive training on how to handle disgruntled customer. Before calling out to the manger, they should have potential skills to deal with an upset customer. Training can empower them to feel capable enough to handle the situation. 

Devan Moonsamy is the CEO of ICHAF Training Institute, a South African Corporate Training Provider & National Learning Institute. He is the author of Racism, Classism, Sexism, And The Other ISMs That Divide Us, AND My Leadership Legacy Journal available from the ICHAF Training Institute. 

The ICHAF Training Institute offers SETA-approved training in business skills, computer use, and soft skills. Devan specialises in conflict and diversity management, and regularly conducts seminars on these issues for corporates. To book a seminar with Devan or for other training courses, please use the contact details below.

Tel: 011 262 2461 | 083 303 9159 |

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