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Despite what the old cliche says, the customer isn’t always right. So what should you do when they are wrong?

If you’ve been in business more than a day, you’ve probably heard the tired old saying regarding how customers are always right. In the real world though, even if you want to believe this, you can’t always satisfy every whim of every customer out there. It’s just not possible. Don’t get us wrong, customers often provide invaluable insights for your company and their voices should be heard. However, spend enough time in customer service, and you’ll soon realize that not every interaction is going to work out the way you hope.

Knowing that customers can be wrong from time to time is a good start, but how should you handle these situations to avoid fracturing a customer relationship?

Saying no to a customer who is in the wrong can be tricky. The truth is, it’s always going to be a little bit difficult, but there are ways that you can do it without rupturing an otherwise valuable business relationship. This requires a little art, a little patience and a little strategy. Here are some tips for how to handle customers who are wrong while minimizing the negative effects on your organization.

  1. Ask for some empathy. This is especially effective if you’ve had a long relationship with a customer. They’re probably looking at things only from their own point of view, but by asking them to focus for a second on where you’re coming from, you may be able to help them understand why you can’t accommodate them in this particular instance. This can help limit any hard feelings about not being able to provide them with what they were hoping for this time around.
  2. Stay personal. It doesn’t matter how polite you are, if you send a form email or offer a scripted rejection over the telephone, it is going to sting with even the most even-tempered customer. It makes them feel like you don’t value their business, and that is a sure road to ruin. Instead, be friendly, don’t be afraid to be personal, and let the history of your relationship with a customer inform the way you treat them and their rejection. This will help keep that relationship intact.
  3. Just the facts. A rejection without an explanation is going to leave a bad taste in the mouths of your customers. By the same token, empty platitudes aren’t helpful either. However, taking the time to actually outline the real reasons why it’s not possible or practical to meet customer expectations this time is something that most people will listen to. Even if it is frustrating for them, at least there is no ambiguity or confusion as to why you could not accommodate them, which leaves the door open for future business dealings.
  4. Do What You Can. Even if it is not possible to offer a customer exactly what they want, there is a good chance that there is something else you could offer them.  It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Meeting a customer halfway, offering an alternative product or service, or offering a discount on future dealings can help take the bite out of a deal that didn’t go the way they hoped.

It can be a real challenge to deal with customers who are wrong. But you can’t be steamrolled in every situation of conflict. So keep these tips in mind and they will help you handle these situations professionally. At the end of the day, we’re all people and as long as we treat each other with respect and communicate well, then things tend to work out.

More posts you might want to check out:

Customer Service Goes Beyond Giving the Customer What They Want

Turning Customer Complaints Into Compliments

How to Win Back Former Customers