One of the most detrimental customer service slogans or business practices is, "the customer is always right". This slogan, why at face value seems like a good way of making the customer happy and driving good customer service, is often a way to diminish employees, not adequately train them to practice excellent customer service and utilize good problem solving and communication skills, and ultimately creates entitled customers that will mistreat employees and your business.
Excellent customer service should start by training employees about customer service, not by giving them a one line policy that tells them that "the customer is always right." Excellent customer service should be created on a foundation of setting a good environment for employees where they are trained on how to professionally treat a customer and look for solutions to customer issues. It is also about setting the right expectations for the customer. Many times a customer is unhappy because they didn’t have the right expectations set in the first place.
Companies often short change employee training by just using the catch phrase, "the customer is always right". This can have negative consequences for the business and customer service. Anyone who has worked in customer service can tell you the customer is not always right. Irritable customers that verbally abuse employees and demand satisfaction are born out of an entitled idea that they should get whatever they want because they are right. This attitude and experience often makes employees seem and feel like second class citizens. These feelings can cause a difficult work environment that sets the stage for inappropriate and unprofessional attitudes and actions by employees.
The first thing businesses need to do is to be willing to invest the time and resources into good employee training. Employees should not operate with a catch-all line that "the customer is always right" and their main function is to make a customer happy. That should not be the overarching take away from "training". Employees need to feel like they matter and are capable of assisting in providing solutions. Employee training should be about teaching effective communication skills, learning to ask the right questions, listening to the customer, and understanding the goals of the business and learning what actions help with their success and the success of the business. If companies fostered an environment where the employees felt the business cared about them and wanted to see them be successful, good customer service would be a more common by product of interactions with customers.
Customer service isn't always about giving the customer whatever they want. Customer service can also be about managing a customer's expectations, helping them to determine what exactly they are looking for, and engaging them in a way so that they feel invested in a transaction as well.
About three years ago my family and I ventured into a game store. They sold all types of board games, card games, etc. We were slightly overwhelmed at all the games they had. As we browsed around an employee came up and asked us if we were looking for anything in particular. We said we were trying to find a board game our family could play. With four kids that at the time ranged from 17 to 7 that could be a daunting task. He stopped and for the next 30 minutes talked to us about several different games he thought we would like. He asked questions and let us asked questions. After narrowing it down to four or five different games, he said he would leave us alone to discuss it. It was hard to choose, but we finally decided on three of them. I looked the games up online, to get additional reviews as well and they were all positive as well. Of course, I could also see they were less expensive online but we were so impressed with the knowledge of the employee and his willingness to take time with us that we purchased the games there. Investing in people whether they are employees or customers can bring a return on the investment. Sure there are times when this won't be the case but overall it will.
Having employees engaged with the customers not only shows value to the customers but to the employees as well. What are the keys to good customer service? Good customer service begins before the customer walks into your business. It is important to establish a foundation of customer service with an environment of customer service. Here are some ways to get a good foundation and environment set:
Employees set the tone and environment for a business and its transactions. Think about companies with excellent customer service, Publix and Chick-fil-a are just two examples. Personally, the main reason many people frequent both establishments is the consistency of the service experience. The employees are nice, cheery, helpful, and make me feel like the customer matters. Do your employees make your customers feel this way? Does your management and business make your employees feel this way?
Good customer service is about providing a good experience not just for the customer but for the employee as well. It is a process - not a one size fits all concept. The customer is not always right, but training employees effectively and making them feel like they matter is always right. While a logo may give you brand recognition your employees determine your service recognition, and the customer experience. Make sure your business appreciates the important role your employees play as the face of your company – not just as workers but a pivotal point in your business' relationship with its customers.