Home Management Matters The customer is always right… aren’t they?

The customer is always right… aren’t they?


It seems we’ve outgrown the old saying ‘the customer is always right’.

While it still underpins our attitude toward customer service, nowadays it’s more a two-way relationship.

With more choice on offer, customers are increasingly likely to seek out the salesperson’s expertise. At the same time, a good salesperson will ask for the customer’s opinion, uncovering their exact wants and needs so that they can deliver accordingly.

A case study: the Australian retail industry

Australia’s retail industry is currently experiencing a major slump. And it’s not looking like it will pick up any time soon. Consumer confidence is low, while the fiercely competitive online space with its heavily discounted group buying offers is a game changer.

The retail conundrum in Australia gives us an interesting customer service case study to consider. We are gradually moving our business interface online. Many businesses think that this frees up time normally spent on customer service because there’s less face-to-face interaction. This is a huge mistake. The reality is that not seeing your customer in the flesh is an even greater motivation to provide better customer service. We’re human and we want to talk to real people, even if it’s online.

Value your customers… And your customer service team

The customer is now, more than ever, the most important aspect in any sales process. Businesses need to remember that the customer is their primary business asset. The internet is great but it only makes our communication method easy and faster – not necessarily better. We still need the people.

One of the reasons salespeople may be lacking in customer service motivation is the bad PR that sometimes surrounds the position. In some businesses it’s seen as the ‘servant’s’ role, where you’re required to put up with abuse and bad behaviour. At the same it, it may be trivialised by colleagues as ‘fluffy’. This is simply not the case.

Interestingly, according to The Customer author Ron Willingham, 68 per cent of customers stop buying or dealing with a particular business because they’re upset with the treatment they’ve received. Even worse, most won’t provide much-needed feedback, which means the business is less likely to make the necessary improvements. Add to this 68 per cent the nine per cent leaving to do business with your competition and the 14 per cent that are dissatisfied with your product or service, and you can see how important it is to have a highly-skilled customer service representative on the front line – indeed, they are the backbone of your business.

Four basic rules of customer service

When refocusing your efforts to ensure the customer comes first, follow four basic rules:

  1. Misunderstanding – correct it
  2. Doubt – resolve it
  3. Limitation – compromise or put it into perspective
  4. Question – answer it

There, it’s no so hard. Right?

Sue Barrett is a sales expert, business speaker, adviser, sales facilitator and entrepreneur and founded Barrett Consulting to provide expert sales consulting, sales training, sales coaching and assessments. Visit www.barrett.com.au.

Barrett is hosting tables for clients and contacts at the Annual CSE Sales Leaders Conference 2011. CSE2011 is about The New Era of Professional Selling: The Pathway from Supplier to Partner. This year’s conference includes global and local industry case studies of organisations getting customer relationships right. If you would like to attend please download this registration form to join the Barrett table.