The BBC outline the background to an incident at a Sainsbury’s store when a sales assistant refused to serve a customer who was talking on her mobile phone. Apparently the company has publicly apologised to the customer, but privately supported the sales assistant. This has rekindled a debate amongst retailers that has been ongoing for decades, namely the extent to which the ‘customer is always right’.
I’ve always followed a standard process for dealing with any customer who has a complaint or is upset in some way. First, apologise – not for whatever may (or may not) have happened, but for the customer feeling the way they do ie ‘I’m sorry you are upset’ or ‘I’m sorry you have a complaint’. This avoids getting into a debate as to who is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Second, never interrupt – it is absolutely necessary that the customer gets it off their chest. Third, find out and use the customer’s name – this means the customer feels they are being treated as an individual. Finally, ask the customer how they would like the situation to be resolved – very often, if you have followed the first three steps, the complainant will not want anything done, as you will have provided them with what they wanted – someone to listen to their concerns. And throughout this whole process, do not make excuses – as far as customers are concerned there is no excuse for something going wrong.