Customers: Are they always right?

As I have experienced the growth of Par4Success there have been a lot of stumbling blocks and learning moments along the way.  One of the most difficult ones for myself has been learning how to deal with unreasonable people or with those situations when a customer is attempting to take advantage of what we are offering.  My least favorite one, however, has been having to stomach when there was a screw up on our part and we have to eat the financial loss…those ones sting for awhile.  Luckily those have been few and far between, but, I could list off each one for you if you were ever curious.  That is how vividly those stay with you, I believe, so you’re less likely to repeat a second time.

My first instinct in the beginning was to always appease the customer as I had always heard “the customer is always right”.  Plus, lets be honest, we were a small business starting out, needed every cent we could get people to pay us and all the good words possible passed on to other future customers.  I stuck with this “the customer is always right” mentality for a number of years until I started to realize that you know what, a fair amount of the time the customer is actually WRONG.

I have had a number of experiences along these lines lately as we have grown into a much bigger business than just me lugging a treatment table around in my car.  There are a couple scenario categories that I want to share with you that you need to be on the lookout for and stand up for yourself.

  1. The Guilt Tripper

The customer usually will try to come at you from an angle of you made a mistake or miscommunicated something to them and that they are an unsuspecting bystander, in some sort of financial duress all the sudden or come up with some crazy sad story that you know is BS.

I had one customer who had worked with us for almost 4 months try this move.  We had gone out of our way to reserve time for the customer above and beyond what they were paying for without charging them a couple of times.  They had also cancelled last minute a number of times when we had done this towards the end show no respect for our time and actually never once thanked us for going above and beyond.

When they called to cancel and try to get out of the cancellation fee there was a long sad story about how their schedule was very busy and they didn’t feel like they were getting their money’s worth.  I looked back at our documentation and saw the number of late cancels for appointments they weren’t charged for and also weren’t charged late cancel fees and saw the emails back and forth we had exchanged explaining that they had simply forgot a number of times.

The client was not committed, was flaky and now was trying to play a number of different guilt trips on us saying they knew a lot of people and that while they “wouldn’t say anything bad about us” they were hopeful we would refund them the last 2 months since they didn’t come much.  You’ll find this towards the end of this scenario that sometimes customers will actually start to threaten you saying they will spread bad things about you.

Don’t be afraid to call them out on it if you are sure they are full of it.  Now, if you aren’t 100% certain I would advise you to tread carefully.  In my experience, calling out someone incorrectly can be devastating for your business especially if you are a word of mouth shop. But, if you do call someone our correctly, they typically will go quietly thinking to themselves that they gave it their best shot and you called their bluff.

   2. The Shyster

This is an interesting one.  They usually don’t come to you directly because they know they have no case.  Instead, they go to the credit card company and try to say that they were being charged by you without giving you their consent.  Yes, this actually happened.

For all three of these cases, documentation is vital.  Without something in writing you have nothing.  You need to make sure you have it otherwise you better like the taste of eating crow and watching people take your money right out of your pocket.

In this case we had documentation of their signed contract agreeing to the payment terms as well as email trails back and forth encouraging the member to attend more and even granting them a break on certain fees.  Because we were able to provide this all to the card company, they ruled in our favor.

Another version of this that we have had is when there is a system error and a monthly bill is not created for a member.  You would be shocked at how many people will not come forward to say that there must be a mistake because they have not been billed.  Now if it honestly goes unnoticed or not I have no idea.  But, I will say make sure you have systems in place to audit your members and clients to be sure everyone is actually paying you for what you are giving them.

What is interesting to me about this type of customer is why they wouldn’t come to the business first?  I can tell you that in our case I would have been much more willing to work with someone that way rather then them basically call us liars and thieves.  Don’t let people steal your money.  Stick up for yourself and your policies to keep what is rightfully yours.

    3. The Innocent Ignorance Play

This one is probably the one that ticks me off the most when people try to pull this

This play is usually aimed towards not understanding the fees or charges or what was expected of them.  The first line of defense here is of course having everything in writing and making sure they initial or sign.  You can follow it up with verbal explanation as well.  No matter how good your systems are for this one, however, you will have those people who still try to play dumb.

Now, unless you have documentation to disprove all the accusations they are making, you unfortunately in my opinion, have to eat crow and bow to what they are asking.  This leads the the importance of contracts, outlays of rate schedules, cancellation policies and the need to have all clients initial or sign something saying they understand them all and agree with the rules.  This is vial for thwarting this customer as they can’t argue with the fact that they signed their John Hancock on the line agreeing with your rules.

Nevertheless when this customer calls you up playing dumb they are the most persistent.  I have no understanding why, but they are freakin stubborn.  Stick to your merits, reiterate what they signed, show them their signature and explain again and again if you need to.   Whatever you do, don’t give them your money back.  It is exactly that, yours.


Parting Thoughts

Now with all of these cases I urge you to use your judgement as these are not cut and dry or black and white.  All of these scenarios that I have come across typically have a little more gray than black and white in them.  But if you stick to your principles and treat people with respect while explaining to them rationally where you are coming from you can usually navigate these difficult waters pretty well.

Of course there are those people who you will never please and you need to be OK with that.  The best piece of advice I ever received was in High School from a basketball teammate, Brandon Trama.  I hope you will take these words to heart and implement them in your practice and life as I do each and every day.

He told me, “you can’t reason with unreasonable and you can’t argue with stupid.”


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