6 Additional Answers
(Owner, Human Nature Management)
Great question, Brian. Let me try a paradigm shift on you....
We have all heard and been taught that 'the customer is always right', which reasoning, and the resultant conflicts with a company's base interests and abilities, forms the basis of your question.
However the truth is more like this, 'The customer always THINKS they are right.'
A small shift, I know, but an important one.
Arguing with a customer, or otherwise finding customer service in an oppositional position with a customer, can never further one's interests in business. On the contrary, a few well placed negative customer comments can do a lot of damage.
However, understanding the customer *thinks* he is right (just as we would when calling someone's CS department) gives us a common ground upon which to gain footing. Find out what the customer thinks, and why they think it is right. Those answers give us a starting point much easier to work from. They also tell us internally how we might better set expectations for customers in the future.
I do believe customers should ALWAYS be left believing they were listened to, valued and validated, whether they were *helped* or not.
Together, let's put the fun back into work!
(Consultant and Trainer, Customer Satisfaction and Reputation Management)
I wrote a blog post on this topic entitled 'When is it acceptable to say NO to a customer' at http://bit.ly/yBFZPx
Here are the times when you cannot make a customer happy and in fact, should not, make a customer happy.
1. When the customer is asking for something illegal, immoral or unethical.
2. When the customer is asking for something that puts your company’s employees at risk.
3. When a customer asks for something that, in the light of scrutiny, would damage your company reputation or brand.
4. When a customer is threatening the safety or welfare of your employees.
5. When a customer wants products or services that are blatantly not in their best interest and has been advised otherwise.
6. When the customer has formed an unrealistic expectation of your organization which you cannot reset.
7. Extremely late payers.
8. When a customer wants you to do work you don’t know how to do or have to learn to do.
I cover examples and the rational for these and ideas on how to handle many of these issues in my blog post.http://bit.ly/yBFZPx
I personally believe there are certain guidelines that need to be followed. For instance, you have to enforce policies customers are sometimes unhappy with. Although it is never wise to be completely inflexible in enforcing the rules, remember they are there for a reason.
And yes, it is always better to find a solution both parties can be happy with. This is not always possible, though. And when this happens, I side with my company. Most of the time, this is regarding adjusting a price, and my company doesn't allow that. If they did, we would lose so much money, which would not be good for anyone. Not even the customer.
(President, Bellwind Consultants)
Everyone has had great responses as to why a company cannot and should not do anything to make a customer happy. However, I would like to take this discussion one step further. The company isn't always right either. Analysis of customer complaints is an extremely valuable tool to aid in the ultimate customer satisfaction. If the complaint is about missing parts or defective parts then there is a quality control issue. If many customers are having the same problem with a product then there is likely a problem with poorly written instructions or manuals. Think about the cartoons of a father trying to put together a bicycle on Christmas Eve only to find himself on Christmas morning, frazzled and exhausted, with something that looks more like a modern art sculpture than a bicycle. If customers are complaining that a product can't do what was promised then a hard look at marketing materials and messages as well as the sales force is necessary.
Giving away the store to make a customer happy is no solution but redesigning 'the store' to address the issues may create a lot more truly happy customers.
(Chief Technology Officer, Red Flower Media)
I am going to start off with a bit of Tony Robbins-speak for a moment. No one can make another person happy. It's the job of every person to manage their own happiness and the job of other people entering into some sort of relationship with them, be it personal or business, to make them happier. So, given that people decide to be happy or unhappy, we can help them manage that quite simply. First, happiness is a decision, and decisions can be managed. I know this sounds a bit kooky but bear with me a moment. Since you can't make someone happy all you can do is help manage a person's decision to be happy. Ask yourself, what part of the decision to be unhappy or happy do I (or my company, it's products and services) play? What is it that drives this person I am in a relationship with (personal or business) to choose happiness or unhappiness? Products and services don't make people happy or unhappy. Experiences do. Is a customer happy because the product works as expected and thus their experience is one they can trust? 'When I get products from them they work as expected.' Or, does the relationship cause frustration? 'It broke and I tried to return it and I was in menu-hell until I finally gave up.' Their frustration helped them in their decision to be unhappy.
How do you manage this? You can't manage anything without asking the right questions. Start by making some lists. First, put yourself in the shoes of your customer and make a list of the things that leads to their happiness. Don't even bother with the things that will lead to their unhappiness because A)It focuses on the negative and B) the List is probably far too long to even deal with. Once you have this list (and you can create a focus group that helps you come up with that list with real customers) then make a list of things that you can do to meet the needs of your customer. Suddenly it becomes manageable. When a customer is unhappy, forget about what made them unhappy and focus on the things you know you can do that lead to their happiness. Get them focused on your desire to make them happier. Let them know that you are aware that they really want to be happier and you're there to do it. But, very few people ever make these lists. Doing it puts you in the upper 98th percentile. So, if you want exceptional customer satisfaction (happier customers), start with the lists. It's these lists that help you understand how to manage your own resources, as well as help your customer manage themselves back to a happier state. For example, things break. The customer is not happy that they have to call support. That is your first chance to change the direction things are heading. Tell them the goal. 'I'm sorry it broke. I want to see if I can make you happier.' So much of customer support today is about managing customer unhappiness. Change the paradigm. Help manage your client's happiness. It truly makes a difference. It's a very big question, and this is just a very brief look at the issue but I am happy to discuss this further.
(Owner, The Difference)
Whatever it takes to make a customer happy? I think that that is too broad a goal. Honestly some customers will NEVER be happy. I like Maggie's response of being reasonable. Often, what a customer demands, is not what they really want or need.
Now I do think that it is the responsibility of the business to TRY to make the customer happy. To look for ways to enhance the experience of the customer and to listen to the customer with the goal of making them happy. If you listen carefully to what the customer needs, and then think of creative ways of getting them what they want, you might stumble upon a great new idea.
Openness, a willingness to listen,and to think creatively are all qualities that will take a business to the next level of customer service.