Now there's the proverbial 'pregnant' question!! What do YOU think?
Before I offer my take on it, I think I'll share something that a very wise businesswoman and marketing expert once told me. She used to call me once every month or two back in the days when I was moving a lot of merchandise at Ebay, and we'd talk about customer problems from time to time.
She said, "Always remember how hard and how long you have worked to build your business, NO MATTER WHAT. Someone may be giving you a really hard time over a non-issue, just because they are having a bad day and just because they can. What you SAY in return can make or break your business....because this is a small, small internet world."
I needed that advice as they say, "yesterday". Stopping, thinking about all that hard work and how it could be torn down by my own hands by responding to a harsh email in kind....yeah. I had done it....not a lot, but yep, I'd shown my less than nice side when pushed hard enough, on occasion. Many of us have!
But....in the long run.... it's really not worth it.
That having been said, I'm ready to answer the question the way I feel in my heart after many years of dealing with customers on the internet as well as previously, in the mail-order business.
NO. The customer is NOT always right.
The customer is not right when they insult and belittle, when they are harsh and demanding, when they manipulate, when they say words that hurt and are unprofessional. They are not right when they try to get something for nothing, return things they've had for two months, return things that are damaged---by them---and want their money back.
AT THE SAME TIME: Just because a customer is not right to behave in an unprofessional way, YOU as the seller, shopkeep, website owner MUST remain professional---because you ARE the professional.
So how to deal with it?
First of all, don't respond on a hair trigger. Count to ten, think before speaking, if the confrontation is happening 'in person.' If you're responding to an email, you don't have to respond that moment. Take a break. Think about who you are as a seller, what you stand for. Just because someone may have unfairly challenged your integrity does NOT mean you do not have integrity. Do everything in your power NOT to take things personally.
Then when you respond, be courteous, stick to the facts, and attempt to fix the situation even if it needs to go the customer's way, even if it is unfair to you.
Be sure that your selling policies in print are clear.....but be flexible. Don't draw more lines in the sand than you have to. And they're your rules....so, it's okay to break them. Sometimes it's just EASIER to break them!
If you are selling through a venue, such as Etsy or Ebay, remember to follow all their written policies to the best of your ability. If you have done that and treated the customer with grace as well as done everything you can to turn a situation THEIR WAY---even when it's not fair to you!--you will probably be rewarded by maintaining a good feedback score.
And.... maybe not. :-(
Some folks think that because they can leave harsh words, it's okay to do so publicly. Well, we know that's not okay. You really can't stop them, though, if that's what they want to do. If it happens, accept and move on....why should it destroy your whole day? We only live and breathe so many days on this planet. It's your job to fix the problem if you can, but you don't owe it to anyone to be robbed of your joy.
Really, there will be ALWAYS be far more people who appreciate what you do and who will return time and time again.
Sometimes, too, when by kindness you turn a situation around even IF it's unfair to you, you can gain a customer who will return again and again for YEARS. You might even make a great creative friend.
You will always find someone who cannot be pleased, no matter what you do. You'll just have to move on at that juncture after all means are exhausted.
Why am I writing this today? Actually, I've wanted to share this viewpoint on my blog for a long, long time. I guess I was a bit timid about doing so because it's a bold viewpoint. A recent conversation with another seller gave me courage, as well as remembering the words of my business friend.
Keep your head up! No, they are NOT always right. But the better thing is to rise above it, do everything you can to fix a situation, let it go the customer's way and then.....let it go if you are unable to make them smile.
Breathe in, breathe out. Like Scarlet said, "Tomorrow is another day." And there are alot of really wonderful, creative people out there, just waiting to meet YOU.