Success Strategies - September - 2019

Customers Aren’t Always Right

Rule #1: The Customer Is Always Right.

Rule #2: When the Customer Is Wrong, Read Rule #1.

OK, that’s clever, and it’s a good philosophy for running a customer-oriented shop. But what if the customer really is wrong?

We’ve seen lots of occasions where the service advisor convinces the customer that their problem was with the transmission, but it turns out to be with a different component. In these cases, the shop is wrong and should own their mistake.

However, we’ve also seen serious transmission problems that customers were sure came from the tires or wheel bearings or, whatever. Maybe they watched a YouTube video that over-simplified the fix, and they expect you to resolve it cheaply. In these instances, it doesn’t mean the customer is wrong; they’re just misinformed. Don’t make them wrong; help them understand.

Sometimes customers assert that you did something to damage their car even though the work you performed was in no way related to or connected with this new problem. It’s the old “ever since you” blame game. You know how it goes, “Ever since you changed my oil, my windshield wipers are streaking the windshield.” Who’s right and who’s wrong on this one? Maybe checking windshield wipers should have been done during the oil change. Don’t become defensive. Fix the problem rather than fixing the blame.

Sometimes the customer misheard what you explained to them or thought for sure that they had told you about something which they had not. In short, customers aren’t always right, but neither are you. You’re the expert. Effective communication is your responsibility.

However, even when the customer is wrong, he or she still deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. After all, they are paying for the privilege of dealing with you, and you do benefit from their business. Granted, you’re performing a valuable service for them, but they could’ve chosen another shop, and they chose you; so be grateful and treat them well.

On the other hand, there are customers who you probably shouldn’t allow to continue to be your customers. They’re what I call “high maintenance customers” and “people I’d prefer not to work with.” You could say they don’t qualify to be your customer.

All shops need standards – standards of quality for their products and their work, standards of performance for how each person does their job, standards of ethical behavior and smart business practices, and behavior standards for what they will and will not tolerate from customers.

Here’s a true story to illustrate my point. I once had a caller who insulted my assistant and insisted that she “Just put Jim on the phone!” When I answered the call, I put him on the speakerphone with my colleague standing nearby. I asked if he had just yelled at my associate. He said, “I deal with lots of important people like you who don’t want their subordinates to know about their personal business.” I replied, “Today you’re dealing with a business owner who respects his coworkers. Clearly, you don’t respect my staff , so please don’t ever call me again!” When I ended the call, my assistant was standing about 12 inches taller! She was so happy that I had “put him in his place.” I told her, “Any time a person speaks in an abusive manner like that, we don’t want them as a customer. So, you have my permission to say to them, ‘Excuse me, but I have the authority to terminate this call right now. Would you like to approach this differently?’” She smiled from ear to ear.

Since my respect for her was stronger than my desire for the dollars someone might bring to me, she knew that she mattered to my business and to me.

The starting point for our dealings with others needs to be accommodating and respectful. In most cases, even those who are having a tough day will come around and be more reasonable if we treat them right. Give folks the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they just got some bad health news, or they’re dealing with a divorce or some other personal tragedy. However, occasionally, we encounter someone who just isn’t worth the effort – their behavior is unacceptable. When that happens, it’s my opinion that we should encourage them to do business with someone else.

The customer may not always be right, but they’re still the customer. As customers, they deserve your best treatment. Besides, maybe it’s you who isn’t right this time.