Customers may sometimes be right

22nd February 2015

How you deal with customers? How do you ensure that their experience is the best that they can have? What happens if something goes wrong? How do you deal with it? Sometimes, reading reviews on Tripadvisor can be a very painful experience. Maybe something went wrong on that particular day. Maybe a new member of staff panicked. Maybe your suppliers didn’t send you the right ingredients. Maybe the cruel gods of hospitality just sent in the wrong customer as just the wrong time.

Things go wrong from time to time, even in the best hotels or restaurants. It’s how you deal with it that matters. It’s how you make the customer feel valued and appreciated. Tripadvisor is full of long essays where a manager or owner hasn’t dealt with a problem well.

‘The customer is always right,’ is a mantra that is often used in training courses on customer service. And that, of course, is absurd. The customer quite plainly isn’t always right. They can be wrong about a great many things. Like all sections of society, customers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are fun and relaxed, others can be quiet and tense. Some can be plain rude. Good front of house staff will be able to assess a customer and change their manner and behaviour to suit. If they want to engage with you, chat away. If they just want a coffee and don’t want anything else, serve them a brilliant coffee quickly and efficiently.

But here’s the thing. The customer isn’t necessarily always right BUT (and this is really, really important) they are always, always your customer. And that’s the crucial thing some people forget. You want them to return. No matter what the issue has been, you want to make sure that they feel they have been fairly treated.

Nobody gets it right all of the time. I know I don’t.  My natural style is to chat and engage. Sometimes I get it badly wrong and I can sense the customer thinking ‘who is this idiot? Leave me alone.’ But I’ll remember that. I’ll learn from that experience. Next time, I’ll be better.

And that’s what our customers want – that we listen and improve and respect them

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