The Customer is Always Right, Until They Are Not

There are a few customers that we simply cannot afford to deal with any longer... As soon as a bad customer becomes evident, take steps to end the...

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Why not recommend a competitor? Suggest other businesses that may be able to provide the product or service. Some people will never be made whole. Most difficult people treat everyone in the same manner. Let them distract someone else, while you focus on profitable transactions.


What’s Behind ‘Bad’ Customers?

Here is the rub. We have found that most bad customers have been created by a business, via policies or untrained staff. How, you ask? Well, it was unintentional of course, but some policies may encourage bad behavior. Staff that is not trained or not empowered to resolve customer complaints may be creating bad customers.

When we research and dig deeper into the situation, including what, and how, the issue accelerated to the level of firing a customer, we want to determine how it built and rose to this truly unwanted level, involving excess time and resource wasting, and unintentional consequences.

I recommend, in most cases, not simply offering a discount or coupons as a remedy to solve a customer complaint, but instead engaging in objective self-examination to determine the circumstances that enable death-spiral levels of customer dissatisfaction.


“Bottom line, most customers are not bad at the start of the business relationship. Many times that bad customers has been created by bad customer service policies, or inadequate staff training policies.”


Bottom line, most customers are not bad at the start of the business relationship. Many times that bad customers has been created by bad customer service policies, or inadequate staff training policies.

A single situation handled badly, that is ignored and not addressed by the business, can ignite into an irreconcilable lose-lose situation. A situation can be as small as a failure to say thanks, or to invite a customer to come again. The most damaging situations are customer service errors, based on a process and not on an emotion.

In this era of online shopping, apps and email-text communications, we find the elimination of human contact is making bad customers the norm. Businesses that have eliminated human contact, intentionally or unintentionally, are hiding behind the technology, and often create a new class of bad customers. As we learned from feedback forums, anonymous automated ordering systems that lack the human touch invite rude and belligerent behavior.

Sometimes, bad happens. When it does, is there a clear path to the “contact us” links on your Web site, and are the links current, including business mailing addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses? The goal is to make conflict resolution accessible to your customers. It is no longer sufficient to obscure contact information in the hope the customer will simply go away. All too often, they post profusely and negatively on their way out, creating a tsunami effect of orders not placed that you cannot measure or even be aware of.


This article has been edited and condensed.

In 1996, Pamela Gockley and Dean Hornberger founded a small Internet website graphics, design, and maintenance company called “Grumpy Graphics.” This venture blossomed in 2000 into an award-winning, multi-service company, Vigilant Corporation, headed by Pam as President, CEO, and Chairman. In 2004 Pam was selected as one of the Best 50 Outstanding Business Women in Pennsylvania, honored for her years of success in owning and operating Vigilant, as well as her many years of service to the community. In 2005 she received the Entrepreneurial Achievement Award from Kutztown University’s Small Business Development Center. In 2014 she was selected as one of Lehigh Valley Business 25 Women of Influence. Connect with @pgockley on Twitter.

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