It’s the phrase that is ingrained in us from as early as when we get our first job; the customer is always right. Still to this day, that phrase remains a rule of thumb for many companies.
But in an age where businesses and customers are constantly shifting their loyalties, is the customer still always right? Well to put it simply, yes.
Since founding Order-In, one of my core values for the company is that providing the most premium level of customer service possible is essential and we have numerous systems in place to ensure this happens. A customer is, after all, the most crucial element of any business. Customers are the seed and the business is the plant. They are the reason that businesses can call themselves businesses.
It is important in any company to consider how your customers feel you engage with their concerns, as people buy on feelings and experiences. For most successful businesses, their loyal following can be attributed to the efforts spent in communicating with their audience.
Creating an open space, where customers can express their opinions, will result in an atmosphere where customers feel heard. Ultimately this will fuel high customer retention, and also benefit your business from a monetary point in the long run.
How are you talking to your customers?
If your sales are stalling, perhaps consider how you could improve communication with your customers as a first step. These days getting through to customers can be tricky, as we so often rely on email and text – forms of communications where the tone can easily be misconstrued. Instead it’s important to talk to the customer, hear what they say, listen to their issues, acknowledge them and work together to develop a solution both parties are happy with.
The key during these conversation is the get the facts, whilst not placing blame or making the customer feel ignorant or stupid. It’s important to be genuine and honest. These phone or face to face conversations also give your business a more personal feel, and reflects how you are willing to go the extra mile to cater to their needs. These efforts are minimal but go a long way in retaining loyal customers.
I also believe that there are a lot of negative misconceptions about customers from business owners, and this can influence a business owner’s decision to allow customer feedback online. Many business owners live in fear of bad reviews. But, the truth is that customers don’t actively seek to hurt your business and their end goal is just to get their money’s worth.
How should you handle customer complaints?
Obviously, some customers are particularly vocal and can throw some pretty harsh criticisms your way. In my experience, customers will always criticise more than they will praise; positive feedback is much harder to achieve. But it’s essential that you take even negative feedback in your stride, as often those comments can be really constructive to improving your business, and allow you to seriously take action to improve issues you might not have considered previously.
In a situation where a customer has made complaint, how you as a business owner and your team handle the situation is vital. Firstly, acknowledge you may need to overcompensate to ensure that the issue is resolved. Disregarding the importance of this leaves a window of opportunity for your customers to ‘bad mouth’ your business to their friends and colleagues; bad news travels fast.
Secondly, showing the customer that you acknowledge their concerns and are willing to take on the responsibility insinuates that you care. Handling the situation in a mature manner will set a standard for any future conflicts you may encounter. Lastly, how you handle criticism from a customer may echo within your workplace, influencing how your colleagues also handle conflict; it only takes one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch.
At the end of the day there is no reason not to put the customer first; they are the key ingredient to any successful business. More importantly, however, is that using ‘the customer is always right’ as your mantra will increase your chances of building a healthy business-to-customer relationship which could minimise future conflicts and help make the company as successful as possible.
Jonathan Rowley is the Managing Director of Order-In, Australia’s #1 Corporate Catering Service. He is a pioneer of the food-tech industry, and regularly takes part in charity initiatives, including the CEO Sleepout, OzHarvest CEO Cookoff, and The Smith Family Challenge. When he isn’t at work, Jonathan spends most of his time with his wife and two teenage daughters, mountain biking or boating.