The Customer Isn’t Always Right…and It Doesn’t Matter

Despite what the popular adage says, the customer is not always right. 

But right or wrong doesn’t matter when faced with an unhappy customer, refund requests, or negative feedback. 

What matters is figuring out what the actual problem is, taking the time to reflect on what the customer is actually saying (even if it’s hard!) and working on it.

Negative communication and defensive tones are frequently used as a kind of self-preservation. 

People believe that it is their best alternative because organizations have conditioned people to become enraged in order to get things done.

Customer service teams are often not empowered to do what they need to in order to take care of their customers, in part, because the company is afraid of losing money. So now, thanks to restrictive processes and procedures, customers are trained to become irate and ask for supervisors to get what they want. 

Remember that the next time a customer comes at you with hackles raised.

When you’re getting refund requests, feedback, or even praise, listen to everything and internalize nothing.

Focus on the problem that’s being communicated, question your role in the misunderstanding, and do your best to resolve the issue from a solutions-oriented perspective.

How to handle negative customer feedback

Take your time

Sometimes it’s difficult not to get irate back, or at least not be in your feelings when someone’s been rude or attacked your creation. If you’re feeling yourself react strongly to what they’ve said, give yourself 24 hours before responding and take as much time as you might need. Remember: if you’re arguing, you’re already losing.

Delegate customer service

If you have someone on your team who can field customer service questions and comments, even better. They’re not going to feel attacked as the creator, and they’ll more easily be able to objectively read the situation and find the best possible resolution.

If you do delegate your customer service to someone else, back them up when they enforce policy. And if ever you decide to make an exception to policy allow your customer service person to take credit for the exception rather than having it look like you swooped in to save the day.

Get clear with your copy

While you can’t manage others’ expectations or interpretations, when you’re defining your offers do your best to ensure that what you communicate leads to a clearly understandable and specific resolution. If there’s no refund window, say so plainly rather than omitting a refund policy. 

And, when a customer contacts you, consider if you did say something (or not say something) that could lead someone to develop an impression of your offer that’s a bit different than how you’d envisioned it. People interpret text in their own way, and it’s always worth exploring an alternate perspective to gain insights in how to communicate more clearly.

Thank them for their feedback

Anytime someone takes the time to provide feedback, whether the feedback is valuable or not, and regardless of how kind the person is about delivering the feedback, I’m a big believer in thanking them.

A simple, “Thanks so much for reaching out” is an easy way to set the tone of the email. 

Follow that up by acknowledging what they’ve said without judging it or arguing the point. 

Start the summary with “I understand that…” and use their same words in the summary. This lets them know that you really are paying attention to their experience, and not just sending them a generic response without considering where they’re coming from.

From there, detail out what actions you’ve taken, or will take next, in order to find the best possible solution. 

Don’t be afraid to break up

If someone consistently responds to your emails with negative comments, they’re likely not a good fit for your content. Politely direct them to the unsubscribe button, or you can go ahead and unsubscribe them from your emails yourself.

Refunds aren’t always the best solution

Sometimes, a refund isn’t what’s going to help your customer the most. While some people will be overjoyed at the offer of a refund, you can also offer them the option to defer payments if this really was something they wanted, and you know that will best serve their growth and momentum.

Also, if they’re not asking for a refund, and instead they’re just expressing concern over a negative experience, then be very careful about offering them their money back. 

A refund offer can be seen as a message of “go away, I’m tired of hearing you complain,” which might be the worst possible thing to say. Sometimes people just want to be heard, and in these cases re-phrasing what they’ve said to you in a summary, and saying “I can imagine how that made you feel and I’m going to look into this right away,” can be everything they hoped for.

Stellar customer service isn’t just for customers.

Like respect and kindness, great customer service is for everyone: past clients, potential clients, subcontractors, team members, peers, and especially your friends and family and yourself.

“Customer service” is, above all else, about treating someone with the utmost care and compassion. If you can bring a little bit of customer service into your daily interactions, it can help everyone in your life feel validated and cared for – even if you’re not handing out refunds!

Meet your host

Sandra Booker, Founder of Changemaker Inc. (home to Sidekick COO and The VA Studio) and creator of Scale Society and The Advisory Board, is a mentor, Fractional COO  and growth strategist. She specializes in helping overworked, overwhelmed, multi-hatted entrepreneurs become the CEOs of sustainably scalable, and powerfully profitable businesses. 

After helping local businesses thrive, and receiving accolades in her community (like the 40 Under 40 award) Sandra turned her attention to the world of online service providers, and her clients include familiar names like Chanti Zak, Tarzan Kay, and Laura Belgray.

In her (efficiently used) spare time, she teaches others how to build and grow their own 6-figure virtual assistant practices and is on a mission to create a million jobs by helping her clients and students scale their businesses.

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