If you recently opened a business, you’ve undoubtedly heard the mantra that “the customer is always right.” Of course, there are some times that the customer is completely wrong; some customers try to get things they aren’t entitled to. However, the basic idea behind this mantra is important for business owners to continue. Any business that deals with customers needs to act to fulfill those customers’ needs and keep them satisfied; if a business fails to do this, customers will go elsewhere and eventually the business will close.

Customer Perception

Your customers’ perception of your business is the most important aspect of your success or failure. Most customers are honest people who don’t want to cheat you or get things from you that they are really not entitled to. However, customers sometimes have had bad experiences with similar businesses or have heard things about your business that they may believe to be true, even when those things are false. For example, if a customer has heard from several friends that your items are poor quality, and then something he or she bought from you breaks, the customer may believe that you sold defective merchandise–even if the customer broke the item by sitting on it! Thus, you have to address the customer’s perception of the situation rather than the situation itself. It will not help either you or the customer to try to convince him or her that you were in the right; it just makes it appear as if you are refusing to take responsibility for the problem.

If the Customer is Wrong

In a situation like this, where the customer is not actually right, but is upset because of his or her perception of what happened, you need to diffuse the situation and take action to make the customer feel that his or her concerns were addressed. In short, you have to act as if the customer is right while finding a solution to the problem that is reasonable rather than giving in to the customer’s idea of what should be done.

The first thing you need to do is acknowledge the customers’ feelings. Regardless of whether the customer has a reasonable basis for his or her feelings, you have to address these. Even if you don’t do anything special for the customer afterwards, if he or she feels understand it goes a long way towards boosting your customer satisfaction score.

In order to achieve this, practice actively listening to the customer. Repeat what the customer said to you and try to mention the feeling underneath. For example, say something like, “I understand that you’re upset that your son’s toy broke right after you took it out of the box.” Avoid blaming the customer or arguing with him or her when you do this; don’t say things like, “I understand that you’re angry that you broke the toy.”

Resolving the Problem

Sometimes the customer is right and his or her proposed solution makes sense. In this case, after you finish listening, you can just give the customer a refund or exchange or whatever it is the customer asked for. This is the best-case scenario because you and the customer agree as to what the problem is and what needs to be done about it.

Other times, however, the customer may either be completely wrong or suggest a solution that you aren’t comfortable with. For example, a customer may demand that he or she gets four or five free items because of inconvenience. If this happens, don’t address the customer’s demand until you’ve diffused the situation. Afterwards, continue being empathetic as you tell the customer “no” and suggest something else. Instead of using the word “No,” it often helps to say, “I can’t do that but…” This helps the customer feel as if you are trying to solve the problem.

Customers Who Lie

A small percentage of customers are dishonest and looking to get something for nothing from you. It’s important to be aware such customers exist, although you should always give customers the benefit of the doubt. If you think a customer is lying to you or trying to cheat you, it’ s important to use the techniques for dealing with angry customers while refusing to give more than the customer is entitled to. Even if a customer is in the wrong, you don’t want to give him or her ammunition against you by abandoning your customer service skills.