Is the customer really always the one who knows what is best?
The saying, "The customer is always right" dates back to the early 20th century. So, perhaps it's worth revisiting given the fact that most people were still riding around on horses back then.
I thought about this concept quite a bit today as I read an article online detailing the rise of consumer complaints in the airline industry. Even as more planes arrive on time, travel complaints jumped to their highest levels in almost 30 years.
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I wish I could say this is surprising to me, but it's not. The airline industry in particular has continued to squeeze out profits against frequent fliers while ignoring customer service. We see rants against airlines every day from almost every type of international and domestic carrier.
So, I realized that there are a few things wrong with today's customer. Here's what I found. The bottom line is that people love to share their opinions. Social networks like Facebook have been encouraging this behavior in us for years. We have become a sharing culture.
And sometimes things go wrong for customers. And when they do, they are not shy about telling everyone they know. Even though new studies are showing that complaining is actually bad for your health, this behavior will not stop anytime soon. What gives?
Today customers are going to have issues, that much is clear. But are these problems so large they warrant online action against the entire corporation and ruin it's brand? Maybe we all should not be so quick to assume angry customers have your best interest at heart.
Here are four reasons why I believe today's customer is not always right:
Need to Share
Most major companies offer a place for customers to submit their feedback online. There are even entire online tools like Get Satisfaction bulit for this purpose. But it still does not seem like it's enough for today's hyper-vigilant consumer. They still want to share their feedback with the world when things go wrong.
Today's customer has a desire. And this need to boast and brag often outweights their common sense. Want proof? Every minute there are 300,000 status updates shared on Facebook. And not all of them are positive. A few of them are definitely rants against businesses.
We all have personal attachments. These attachments might be to friends, family, pets, and even our homes and possessions. I have a personal relationship with my Netflix account that some might deem unhealthy, but that's beside the point. The problem is that today's customer takes any customer service issues so seriously that they feel personally responsible for correcting them online. This attachment is not healthy for either party.
It's great that people want to offer helpful suggestions but they shouldn't be emotionally invested in the situation. But customers have trouble letting go when things don't go their way. For example, a Costco customer recently quit their membership after a brief disagreement with a manager. Instead of having a logical discussion, they felt so emotionally invested in Costco they stormed out of the store never to return.
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The economy is doing better than it was in 2008, but it's still not back to how it was in the late 1990s. Unfortunately, that means some people are working part-time or not at all. And everyone has access to a computer and knows how to create a negative review. Companies like Yelp and Angie's List are making this process easier.
You might notice in many complaints there does not seem to be a purpose. Today's customer often deflects blame and anger toward a company that really should be placed elsewhere. I don't know about you but pointless ramblings are not at the top of my to-do list each week. But that's not the case with every person. Some customers simply have a lot more time on their hands.
Customers are difficult to deal with because they have unrealistic expectations. Even though in general, customer service is getting better, consumer expectations continue to skyrocket. To say that value priced products should be spotless from every angle isn't taking into account the big picture. If you want a spotless experience, you should be prepared to pay for that experience.
There is a reason why I see upset consumers every day all around the Internet. They have a complaint and don't know where to turn. Maybe if companies made it easier to provide real-time feedback, problems like this would be fixed before a complaint could be formed. Maybe nothing will curb the appetite of the bored consumer looking for something to do.
But ultimately, customers want to pay for McDonald's prices and still get a juicy T-bone steak experience. This is a losing proposition for everyone involved. Companies shouldn't have to worry about every customer writing a letter or calling corporate, should they?
Still, customers are not alone when they reaches out for help. Each day thousands of upset customers leave stores and shopping experiences across the country, the real facts are mind-blowing. This is now a trillion dollar industry in the U.S. alone.
I would ask all of you who are emailing or calling the customer service department to take a step back. Is your beef really worth all the hassle?
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I believe that excellent customer service should be a company's top priority. And when it's broken, you should fix it. But what happens when customers expectations go too far? I believe that is the age we are living in now. So, the next time you have a difficult customer, fire them.