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The Customer Is Wrong – Now What?

Customer Experience

The Customer Is Wrong   Now What? image customer is wrongI remember this conversation like it was yesterday. After advising a customer that I would be handling her insurance claim, she stated that she was advised that her policy did not allow for the usage of a rental vehicle. “I have full coverage which means I should be put in a rental car while my vehicle is being repaired!” is what she emphatically  repeated. After checking her policy, I advised her that unfortunately, her policy did not include rental coverage. She became extremely irate and accused the company of misleading her in the definition of full coverage. While I was not privy to the initial conversation when she became a policyholder, this was now a situation for me to handle.

The old adage “the customer is always right” is not always true. Whoever created that adage may have meant that even when the customer is wrong , they’re still right if you want to keep them as a customer. Periodically when servicing customers, it becomes apparent that the customer is wrong – “wrong as two left shoes” as my Dad used to say. They may have misread, misinterpreted, misunderstood or perhaps been misinformed by someone else within your organization. Whatever the case, it’s now up to you to navigate through these dangerous waters. Here are a few tips to assist in keeping  yourself afloat:

1. Preserve the customer’s dignity – When it’s apparent that the customer is wrong, be careful not to “rub it in”. Refrain from statements such as ” That’s not correct.” or “I don’t know where you got that information.” Put your investigator hat on and ask questions such as “Can you please tell me where you received that information?” or “Would you allow me to verify that for you please?” Doing so has a two-fold effect: 1. It shows the customer that you’ve taken their statement into consideration 2. It gives you an opportunity to develop your plan of action to resolve the issue as well as retain the customer.

2. Apologize – Even though you know the customer is wrong, go ahead and apologize for the misunderstanding. Doing so will assist in removing some of the tension from the situation. Remember that the customer is a feeling, human being. Depending on the situation, the customer may be somewhat embarrassed by the predicament. Mentally place yourself in their shoes for a moment. Your apology creates a pause in the situation, thereby creating space for you to be heard by the customer. I have found that when one attempts to resolve an issue without acknowledging the customer’s frustration via an apology, it can take twice as long to bring the situation to a close.

3. Exhibit Kindness When Delivering Bad News – Where your resolution options allow for you to meet the customer’s request, it’s pretty simple – you just resolve the issue. Often when the customer is wrong, internal boundaries prevents one from resolving the issue in the customer’s favor.  In my example with the policyholder, corporate policy did not provide the option for me to place the customer in a rental vehicle when rental coverage does not exist on the policy. It was now up to me to tell her that she was ineligible for a rental vehicle. It’s important to be kind when delivering unpleasant news.  Someone within the organization may have provided incorrect information. Your customer will appreciate your willingness to empathize. I stated “I understand how frustrating this can be, especially now. Unfortunately, because the policy does not contain rental coverage, I am unable to place you in a rental vehicle. However I can call the rental car provider and request that you be given a discounted rate for a vehicle. May I do that for you? “While she was not totally pleased with the outcome, she was appreciative of my offer to save her some money on the rental car costs.  If other options are available, utilize them. While they may not be exactly what your customer wants, they may assist in resolving the issue and providing some degree of satisfaction to your customer.

4. Educate Your Customer – Cautiously - When a customer is wrong, its important at some point during the interaction that they be provided with the proper information. Proceed with caution here. You must be able to gauge if your customer is receptive to this information. What’s their voice tone like? What is their body language saying. If chatting online with the customer, what words are they choosing to communicate? When I reached this moment with my customer, I asked “May I assist you in getting the rental coverage added to your policy? The cost is very minimal – in fact so minimal that it may surprise you.” She was agreeable to my request so I proceeded to conference her with the proper department in order to get the coverage added to her policy.

5. Apologize – Again - It always good to close this type of interaction with an additional apology. Okay, now I hear someone saying “I already apologized once. Isn’t that enough?” I say go ahead and go that extra mile. Remember, the customer really does not want to be wrong, so you want to reassure them that you want to retain their business. A simple closing statement such as ” I’d like to apologize once again for the misunderstanding” can go a long way in soothing the customer’s ego. Think long-term here!

Sometimes customers are just plain wrong. How you handle the situation will determine if they remain a customer. Remember to: 1. Preserve The Customer’s Dignity. 2 Apologize 3. Exhibit Kindness When Delivering Bad News  4. Educate Your Customer – Cautiously and 5. Apologize – Again.

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  1. Zach says:

    I enjoyed your article Errol. At my company, we follow a very similar strategy when making recovery efforts.
    One additional step we add that I’ve found helpful is to thank the customer for bringing the matter to our attention. If the customer was indeed misinformed, the customer has just pointed out an opportunity for improvement within the company; either with a process, a policy, or with an individual who may have missed a crucial step.

  2. Broseph says:

    NEVER apologize for something that is not your fault.
    Don’t be inconsiderate, don’t be rude and tell a customer he or she is “wrong”… but don’t ever apologize if you’ve done nothing wrong. To do so is tantamount to making an admission of guilt or wrong doing if you haven’t any cause to do so.

    Customers are not stupid.
    Don’t insult their intelligence by making a hollow apology for something that is clearly no fault of your own. They can see through that.
    I have over three decades of CS experience (trainer, supervisory and management roles) and I have never advocated the notion of making my employees apologize for something that clearly is no fault of theirs or the company.

    Everything else in this guide is spot on… just ignore the steps are dishing out a fake and unwarranted apology and you’ll go far.

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