We all know that the customer is often wrong.
They demand things that violate policy. They treat employees that didn't make the policies horribly. They are huge pains in the rear end for oh, so many things. However, without the customers, we have no business.
Therefore, many companies have instituted a "customer is always right" model of business. Sounds great for keeping customers happy, but it's a nightmare for the employees. The reality is, if you allow your customers to treat your employees poorly, you'll lose your best employees. You don't want that. Here's how you can make (almost) everyone happy.
Related Article: 6 Signs A Customer Is Not Worth It
Only Make Policies That You Intend to Enforce
How many times has a cashier told a customer that what she wants is not possible, only to have the manager appear, give the customer what she wanted and make the cashier look like a horrible, mean person? It happens all the time in retail. Company policy is no return on X, but the customer throws a big enough fit, and the manager allows it. This teaches the customer that being rude is the secret to success, and it teaches the employee that you'll throw her under the bus at the slightest problem.
Instead, implement the actual policy you intend to enforce. It's not that there is no return on X, it's that there's no return on X without a manager approval. Then instruct your employees to not deny the return, but to say, "that requires a manager's approval."
Now, I realize that the result of this is that everyone who wants to will be able to return X. Before it was only the jerks. That costs the business money. So, stop and think: what would you rather do? Always allow X or never allow X, even when the person is a jerk?
If you want to use specific criteria, empower your employees to use the same standards. The result is that your employees feel trusted and competent. Your customers don't have to go through layers—they quickly learn that calling up a manager only results in the same answer—and that will cut down on screaming customers. It's a winning situation.
Don't Be Afraid to Fire a Client
When you're small and starting out, it's unfathomable to kick a customer to the curb. How on earth will you make payroll if you don't hold on to each and every client? Well, you might need to, legally.
Did you know, for instance, that if a client sexually harasses your employee, you can be held legally liable?
But, what if it's not illegal behavior?
When should you fire a client in favor of an employee? Well, how valuable are your employees?
You can't run your business without them any more than you can run a business without clients. There's nothing wrong with a demanding client as long as they are respectful. When they belittle and demean your employees, it can damage your employees' ability to do great work.
In other words, a mean client is going to get lower quality work in the long run. An unethical angry client will have no problem ruining your reputation as well. It's far better to cut a client loose in this situation.
You'll gain the loyalty of your quality customers because you'll be able to devote time to them.
You'll gain the respect of your employees. Yes, you might feel a bit of a financial pinch until you replace the problem clients, but things will be better.
Related Article: 6 Customer Service Tools for Expanding Businesses
Reward Your Employees
When an employee has to deal with a difficult client (and difficult clients exist for many reasons, not just because they are jerks that you need to fire), you need to realize that this employee is doing a difficult job. Yes, customer service is a part of every job description. That doesn't mean you don't praise someone when she does a great job.
You can reward with cash (everyone likes money), but, honestly, often the best rewards are verbal ones. "Thanks for your work today. You did an amazing job." Recognize a job well done on the spot, and recognize it later with good annual raises and appropriate promotions.
One of the best ways to balance customer demands and employee needs is to let your employees know how much you value them. If you brush off difficult tasks and interactions as "it's part of their jobs to do that.," your employees won't be willing to go the extra mile next time around. In other words, treat your employees right and they'll treat your employees right.
Have you ever noticed that companies that people hate to deal with (like CVS and Kmart) regularly top the list of the worst companies to work for? It's no wonder that companies that treat their employees poorly have employees that turn around a treat their customers badly.
How to Have Great Employees and Great Customers
Be nice to everyone. Treat everyone fairly. Don't give into bully behavior—whether it comes from Jane in accounting or Steve the customer. The result? An excellent business environment for your employees and a great company for your clients.