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Published On: Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The Customer is Always Right – Wrong!

The Customer is Always Right – Wrong!
It’s those disarmingly honest, tough questions that help us uncover the real level of customer support, and whether they are achievable.

- Lucy Glennon specializes in customer service training and recruitment and hiring. She can be reached at 866.645.2047 or lucyg@hireguru.com. www.hireguru.ca.

CUSTOMER SERVICE - Over servicing customers can be as damaging to sales and profits as under servicing them. There is a huge difference between striving for a flawless level of customer care and the right level of customer care.  And not just because striving for perfection can be infinitely expensive.

One B2B company I know spent years fine-tuning and improving its level of customer support. They were extremely proud of the resulting 24/7 emergency response team, providing sales and technical support around the clock.

However, when the largest customers were surveyed, they all said that even though they themselves worked on week-ends, they did not expect their suppliers to do so. The company had indulged in “mind reading” of customer expectations.

When suppliers offer us that level of unsolicited support, we start to think there must be a catch. Are we being over charged? Are they desperate for business?

The popular “Customer Lifetime Value” equation is often used as an excuse to write a blank check to improve the customer experience. Because, after all, isn’t it cheaper to keep an existing customer than it is to find a new one? Only if the customer relationship is a profitable one.

The key to avoiding disappointed customers and unnecessary customer care expense, is to ask tough questions of customers to get good at uncovering and setting mutual expectations for the customer experience. Some good baseline questions are:

  • What do we have to DO to make sure we never lose your business?
  • What do we have to make sure we DON’T do?
  • If we mess up once, is it over?

These questions are often not asked because we fear the answer.  But good customers typically have reasonable responses like "No. No one is perfect. This is what I expect to happen when you do mess up, so we can maintain our relationship. . .”

It’s those disarmingly honest, tough questions that help us uncover the real level of customer support, and whether they are achievable.

Pick your customers carefully. If someone tells us they expect perfection, and will not forgive anything less? Well, that’s a near impossible service level to maintain. It’s up to us to decide whether we put our systems and customer service under that amount of pressure. Or instead, put the time and resources into finding another customer that fits our expectation profile.

Of course this should not be used as an excuse not to offer quality customer support. However, it illustrates that sometimes it is more profitable to “fire” an unreasonable customer and replace them with one that won’t give our customer service, systems and people a hard time.