Is the customer really always right?
It’s extremely important to us to offer great customer service. Delivering on that can be a bit of a minefield. Doing business in the modern world means focussing on customers, not just in each transaction but as a means of developing new products or refining services.
However, is it the best way forward? It’s possible to spend an enormous amount of time looking at positive and negative feedback without making any progress. Each customer has their own priorities. This can mean that each element of a service may be highly rated by one customer and criticised by another. This process can leave businesses in a state of complete indecision or with services that have been refined to the extent that no one likes them.
A customer-focussed process also risks ignoring valuable input from colleagues and associates. We have a small and close-knit team here but this isn’t always true in other work environments. People with customer-facing roles in retail can quickly become frustrated when the needs of an unreasonable or aggressive customer are prioritised above their own.
What does the customer want?
Every business has encountered customers who are narcissistic and entitled. In fact, research suggests that these traits are on the rise. It would be easy to assume that such customers will have a clear idea of their own needs. In reality, they can often be more difficult to satisfy, as each concession boosts their ego and pushes them to seek even more attention.
By contrast, businesses, where customers’ expectations are managed, are beginning to see the benefits. Giving realistic feedback to negative comments promotes good customer relations and a sense of community. Employees come to work knowing that they will be supported when necessary and consequently morale improves.
The rise of social media
Social media has transformed the way in which customers provide feedback. Even a small local business has an online presence which can bring them to a global audience. This can, of course, be of enormous benefit when it comes to attracting work. It also means that feedback can be given easily and broadcast quickly. An issue, which would once have been small and easily contained, could turn into a PR disaster.
This does, however, have the advantage of creating a genuine two-way conversation. Businesses are able to respond to queries or comments in a personal way that is also visible to potential customers. Your business can also find itself reaching people far outside your geographical location, whenever a post is shared widely.
Social media has also widened customer access to peer review sites such as TripAdvisor which can have a direct bearing on customer decisions. In the past, a dissatisfied customer may have told their friends and family to avoid a business where they had received poor service. Now they are able and willing to tell a new and expanded audience.
How can businesses respond to the new landscape? There is a general view that the availability of social media platforms encourages consumers to vent their frustrations more readily. Obviously, that may arise from genuine dissatisfaction, but complaints are increasingly motivated by customers having an overinflated sense of their own importance. A public response to negative comments is unlikely to satisfy them and may push them to complain further. However, it can have the advantage of bringing an affected business a new and supportive community.
We have always believed that treating our customers with respect will, in turn, mean they respect our service and values. To us, that means balancing the needs of our customers with those of the Team. We will continue to strive to listen to both sides and come up with a solution that considers everyone’s views. It’s certainly a challenge, but one which we think is worthwhile and leads to many gratifying comments from our satisfied clients.
Blog post based on text provided by Kirsty France