Is the customer always right?
I spent many years terrified of customer complaint letters coming via head office. The best one (and I wished I had kept it) was written with similar hilarity value to the famous virgin complaint letter sent to Richard Branson about his in-flight meals. The list of errors that myself and my team had performed was nothing to be proud of but the poor customer had made it seem so farcical that once I had dried the tears of laughter away – I had to phone him just to thank him for his hilarious delivery of our short comings! I almost forgot to apologise.
There was one regular customer, however, that complained on a monthly basis in a less than humorous tone. He worked in customer service himself, usually dined alone and would vent his annoyance on a weekly basis either at the table and/or via a letter to head office. Eventually after complaining about us via a phone call to Head Office and insulting the HO Manager by branding her as “only a receptionist” I was given authority to ban him from the restaurant next time he complained. Needless to say he came back in the following week and complained but could I ban him?! NO, I just couldn’t bring myself to hurt his feelings! The team thought I was bonkers but the way I saw it was that there must be something that was making him come back week after week…it’s not like anyone was forcing him into the restaurant every week.
We took his feedback on board, changed the things that we could to accommodate him and took the rest of it on the chin. Maybe he thought that his feedback was valid and that he was doing us a favour? Maybe, he was lonely and it was a way to get some attention? Ultimately, he spent a lot of money with us over the years that he came in and I’m not sure that banning him would have benefited either party in the long run. Whether his complaints were valid or not, in the end, was irrelevant.
So, is it about whether a customer is right or wrong or are there other factors that we should consider when digesting challenging feedback?