How to Tell When the Customer Is Wrong (And What to Do About It)


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The time-tested classic adage says, “The customer is always right.” But business owners and employees alike know that sometimes customers are anything but right. Ranging from rudeness to harassment to straight up fraud, customer behavior can affect businesses negatively. As an entrepreneur, it’s up to you to figure out the best ways to both identify and respond to these situations.

Problem #1: The Clueless Customer

As you work on developing your brand’s product or service, it can be tempting to acquiesce your critics. An Entrepreneur blog post likens this kind of consumer behavior to walking into a McDonald’s and asking for a haircut. Simply put, you don’t need to bend to every customer’s will.

Whether the client’s request is outside the scope of your firm’s experience or just doesn’t make sense, it’s okay – and smart – to say no. Make sure you do your research, though. If a lot of customers have the same complaint, it may be time to check out how you measure up against your competitors in terms of offerings or pricing.

Problem #2: The Unwarranted Rage Episode

Dealing with an angry consumer is everyone’s nightmare, and as a business owner it can be particularly tenuous ground. Unfortunately, as wrong as they may be, your customer is still your customer – which means you need to engage cordially.

Try to remain calm throughout the episode. If a customer is being rude, whether in person, on the phone, or on your public Facebook page, practice mindful breathing and use your best listening skills. This means you need to express sympathy and concern, even if the claim is entirely unjustified. After the customer calms down, ask what he or she would propose as a solution, and do your best to compromise wherever possible.

Problem #3: The Fraudulent “Friend”

The vast majority of your customers act in good faith. They want to receive the best possible product or service for their money, and they believe you can provide it. Unfortunately, there are a few bad eggs in every basket, and some consumers will try to scam you.

One of the most common ways this happens is through a type of credit card scam called “friendly fraud.” This occurs when a consumer makes a purchase with his or her credit card, receives the purchased product or service, and then requests a chargeback from the issuing bank.

The problem with chargebacks is that they don’t require the consumer to communicate with the merchant – which means you won’t have the opportunity to come to an agreement. Fraudulent customers use this to their advantage when they request chargebacks for items they already received.

Businesses can implement a number of simple strategies to prevent chargeback fraud. Obtaining and entering the customer’s credit card security code at time of purchase is one such tactic. Additionally, it’s a good idea to communicate all policies regarding purchases and returns. This information should be prominent on your website and in printed customer literature.

Final Thoughts: Stand Your Ground

When the customer is wrong, it’s up to you to handle the situation with grace and tact. Whatever the situation, however, don’t feel like you need to bend your policies or adjust your contract to suit the customer’s wishes; you have these rules in place for a reason.

According to the Harvard Business Review, research has shown that going above and beyond only has a marginal increase on consumer loyalty.

Your time and energy is better spent meeting their needs.

Larry Alton
Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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