Updated: Mar 3, 2019
Doing business in the age of, "The Customer is Always Right", has led to the emergence of a new phobia "Consumer Trepidation". A feeling of fear or agitation about something that may happen as a result of a consumer threatening or demanding action against the company for alleged bad service. With the rise of review sites and social media consumers are empowered, bad reviews and comments can be powerful reaching people in multitudes.
First, let's all agree that review sites have made us all better in the service industry, it is our report card for better or worse and those companies that do not monitor the reviews and have a protocol to answer bad reviews are defensiveness to unjustified assaults against your company. Answering reviews, not ignoring them, signals the consumer world that you are engaged, that you care and that you do monitor what consumers say and feel about your company. On the other hand, bad reviews can trigger ego and emotion that have no place for response, only positive responses that support your company's side without attacking the reviewer are beneficial. People looking for a company to hire while reading your reviews want to see positive responses to negative reviews, they do not want to see excuses or defensive tactics if the company is wrong. They also do not want to see a "no response", a negative review without a response creates doubt and always sides with the reviewer.
Some companies live in fear of the consumer bully, yes there is such a thing as consumer bullying. Some consumers use that power and threat to obtain free service, unjust refunds, treat your staff with no respect as they verbally assault and threaten anyone in the company that tries to help or answer a complaint. Often the company gives in rather than face the wrath on the internet.
"The customer is always right?", No, there are times the customer is not right and the threats and demands have to be addressed in a professional manner free of ego and anger. Good faith business decisions when dealing with these complaints requires the patience of a fisherman and the wisdom of a high court judge. It is not about the money, it is about the principle. A customer dines at a high priced restaurant, consumes the full meal plus desert, pays the tab with a tip only to call the restaurant three days later to demand a refund by simply stating the meal did not meet their expectations. While that is an exaggerated example, there are complaints and demands that actually relate to examples that bizarre.
Good fair business goes back to being a good listener with empathy in all cases. Be able to see both sides of the issue and understand there are bullies out there in the consumer world that take advantage of these situations. One great piece of advice when dealing with potential bullies that are demanding refunds or serious complaints seeing something extra, is to have the mid-level management take the calls and act as investigators neither defending or siding with either the company or the client. If the mid-level management cannot settle the issue have the client email (never by phone) the director you have placed in charge, a detailed message regarding the issue, refund, or other request. Email removes almost all emotion and ego, email can be address immediately after a short research and a resolution, settlement or denial can be made with explanation. Nothing gets solved in the court of social media.
Good companies are judged not by the amount of mistakes they make but how they respond to those mistakes. Beware of consumer bullies, don't be afraid to defend the company position with dignity and authority if you are right. Do your research first, make a decision and stand by it.