Ten reasons why the customer isn't always right

Of course, businesses should listen to their customers. But customer feedback may not always be as reliable as you might think. Claire Richardson of workforce optimisation specialists Verint explains why...

by Claire Richardson
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

1. Politeness

It’s a well known (and a much mocked) characteristic of the British public that we don’t like to complain. And as the busiest people in Europe, we don’t always have the time or the inclination to feed back in writing.

2. Laziness

Even when we are sufficiently incentivised (or simply incensed) to fill in the customer feedback survey, or ask to speak to the supervisor, we don’t tend to do so in enough detail for customer service managers to understand what has gone wrong.

3. Mr Furious  

Some people are just furious without needing a reason to be so. Your company could simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time - and their pronouncements can distort customer complaint statistics.

4. Unrealistic expectations

Some customers have totally unrealistic expectations of what they might receive from your company, or your customer service. Similarly, this can distort your impression of how your customers view your organisation.

5. Tunnel vision  

Often a customer only deals with one person, or through one channel, and blames that individual for any issue that arises. But the true problem may be the underlying back-office processes, or the training and support the employee received.

6. Ivory tower disease

There might be a genuine issue that is impeding your employees’ ability to do their jobs. Without clear channels of communication, they won't be able to voice this. You'll stay in the dark, and services/products will not improve.

7. An invisibility cloak

The rise of trolling on social networks like Twitter shows just how much more unpleasant people can be when their identity is hidden. This can be true of their interactions with other people, and with companies like yours. Beware any feedback where the customer is unwilling to reveal their name.  

8.  Cover your back

In an increasingly activist climate, where the consumer is more empowered than ever, the unscrupulous will take always push their luck. If you make sure that you have a detailed a record as possible of every interaction with your customers, then you can protect your staff in the event of an alleged mis-selling or other non-compliant issue.

9. Work-shy employees

We have assumed here that service staff want to do their best for their customers, but some do the minimum they can get away with. Employees like this won’t necessarily attract more complaints than any other, but their presence can be detrimental to the effective running of an organisation, as well as to the morale of other staff.

10. Goodwill

If you involve your employees in the running of the company, and take their feedback on board; if you help them do their jobs better when you see the opportunity; if you back them up in the face of unreasonable customers; if you root out the work-shy amongst their number – then you will build up a stock of goodwill that will stand you in good stead whenever you need to ask for that ‘extra mile’. That is an invaluable thing for any business, but it’s important to remember that the information that will allow you to achieve it will not always come from your customers.

Image: BigStockPhoto

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