Anyone who’s in business has heard the saying “The customer is always right.” But even those who’ve uttered the phrase know it’s not always true. Business owners who find themselves dealing with a customer who’s absolutely wrong often find the situation to be a catch-22. On the one hand, it’s not wise to tell the customer that he or she is wrong. On the other hand, it’s important to ensure the customer doesn’t make a costly or dangerous mistake.
Dealing with adamant customers who refuse to listen can be frustrating and overwhelming. What’s a business owner to do in a situation like this so the customer can be properly informed without becoming offended? Read on for tips on how to steer a customer in the right direction without losing him.
What to Do When the Customer Isn’t Right
- Help Uncover What the Customer Really Wants or Needs.
- Turn the Situation into a Learning Opportunity.
- Set Realistic Expectations.
- Lead by Example.
- Put Yourself in the Customer’s Shoes.
Chances are the customer isn’t right because she doesn’t really know what she needs. Start with “May I make a suggestion…” before talking about what similar customers have chosen or done, while sharing your expertise.
Many times, the customer doesn’t have sufficient information to make the correct decision. To save face, he may make the wrong one to avoid appearing uninformed. Offer free training or an informational session; most customers will be thrilled with the great customer service.
Sometimes when people are wrong it’s because they’ve set their expectations too high. Let the customer know that their expectations and hopes are understandable, but that the business doesn’t want anyone to end up disappointed. Use this as a lead-in to explain expectations that are more realistic or an alternative that would meet their expectations.
If it’s clear early on that the customer is wrong about something, the businessperson can lead them in the right direction by example. While discussing the product or service, intersperse the conversation with examples of use or extra tidbits of information. Do so casually so that it feels like a natural part of the buying process.
Honest mistakes happen; nevertheless, people often try to save face by insisting they’re right. A businessperson who can see things from the customer’s viewpoint will be able to identify with the individual and share anecdotal wisdom that helps turn the situation around. For instance, the business owner might say something like “Yes, I understand how you feel about that because I was in your shoes at one time. Then I learned…” When the customer and business owner can connect in this way, it never feels like one is trying to correct the other.
Sales go up when the customer feels like he and the businessperson are on the same team.
A Little Tact and Professionalism Go a Long Way
No matter what the situation is, the businessperson will get a lot further by handling it with tact and professional behavior. Customers don’t want to be embarrassed or made to look like idiots, and who can blame them? Even though the customer isn’t always right, there are plenty of ways to go about leading them in the right direction without losing business.
The methods above can be used in a variety of sticky situations. Business owners who find themselves and their employees dealing with this scenario often can become better prepared to handle it by discussing possible problems and solutions in meetings, and role-playing when possible. This helps employees to avoid getting caught unprepared which, in turn, can help the business retain customers even when they have to be gently nudged in the right direction.
About the Author
Mary Ylisela is an entrepreneur, writer, and business coach who writes about effective business-building practices and customer relations. She works with and writes about other businesspeople from all walks of life, and often chronicles the success of others, like Steve Wynn.