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5 Tips for Brand Integrity: Is the Customer Always Right, Even If They're Wrong?
Posted on May 10th 2014
There’s been a lot of talk recently regarding the age old adage: the customer is always right. Alexander Kjerulf’s article “Top 5 Reasons Why ‘The Customer is Always Right’ Is Wrong” on The Huffington Post received over 200,000 Likes on Facebook and just under 50,000 Shares. Even by Huffington Post standards, that’s a pretty prevalent article.
Why did this article strike such a chord with readers? Because everyone, on all sides of the coin, has been in this situation, where the customer is always right has either infuriated you or blessed you.
The Disney Institute took on this topic as well, and from it comes one of my new favorite axioms from Disney:
…we believe the extent to which an organization cares for its people is the extent to which the employees will care for the customers. We recognize that while our Guests are an important part of our organization, the relationship we foster with our Cast members has a great impact on that Guest experience.
Gotta love them!
Kjerulf calls out the 5 main downfalls of believing the customer is always right. They are:
1. It makes employees unhappy
2. It gives abrasive customers an unfair advantage
3. Some customers are bad for business
4. It results in worse customer service
5. Some customers are just plain wrong
As someone who has worked as a Cast Member for Disney, as well as a server and bartender throughout the years, I can honestly say that I couldn’t agree more with both Disney and Kjerulf on this one.
Social Media Customer Etiquette
These days everything and anything ends up in the public forum, from dinner receipts to parking availability. If an aspect of your business or company can be reviewed, it will be. And whether it’s good or bad, everyone will know about it.
So, what do you do in those situations where the customer is always right doesn’t apply – where the customer is actually in the wrong and yet everyone online sees only one side of the story?
Follow these steps to recovering brand integrity while sticking to your guns:
1. Keep Your Cool
Above all, no matter who is in the right and who is in the wrong, keep your cool! The last thing you want is another Amy's Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro meltdown. Any and every social media response must be timed perfectly, usually within an hour of the initial comment or review going live. However, just because you should respond as quickly as possible does not mean that you can’t thoroughly think through that response.
2. Stand By Your Brand Message
In researching how to respond to negative comments or reviews, you will no doubt come across hundreds of tips from social media and reputation management experts, but few will remind you of the important of sticking to your brand ideals. Your business was built upon a mission statement, a purpose, a brand message that, no matter what, you should maintain at all times.
Social media can provide some of the most trying and difficult situations in terms of customer experience, but your business was built upon a driving principle and no matter what is said on Facebook or Yelp it is imperative that you stick to that driving principle.
3. Stand by Your Employees
The employee is right, the customer is wrong – and yet your audience online only sees one side of the story. I once worked for a company that took the phrase the customer is always right to scary heights, going so far as to reprimand employees in front of customers. Just as Disney states the extent to which an organization cares for its people is the extent to which the employees will care for the customers, Kjerulf points out in the Huffington Post article how important it is to stand by your employees.
You can't treat your employees like serfs. You have to value them ... If they think that you won't support them when a customer is out of line, even the smallest problem can cause resentment.
Happy employees do make for happy customers. Treating your employees with respect does trickle down to the customers, and the same is true for online interactions. You should not only stand by your employees, but stand up for them online.
4. Provide Proof
Often times simply providing the proof of your stance can solve everything. Take this example from Starbucks:
In this situation, Starbucks replies with respect and yet provides proof to support the stance. The most wonderful aspect of this strategy is the response from true brand advocates. Notice how many Facebook users stood behind Starbucks in this situation, which leads me to my next tip.
5. Procure Brand Advocates
One of the greatest achievements that you can accomplish with social media marketing is to foster brand advocates, those individuals who will stand with your brand through thick and thin, good times and bad. Brand advocates will stand up for your brand, stand behind you in these difficult situations, and will be able to say those things that as a brand you cannot say.
The world of reviews and social media comments can be tricky. You are constantly being challenged and must be able to respond to situations where the customer might not be right all of the time. But if you respond with respect, apathy, and remain true to your brand, big things can happen.