The Five Keys to Good Customer Service Part Two: The Customer May Not Always Be Right, But Neither Are You


Have you ever heard the saying “The customer is always right”? Did you know it was coined in 1909 and is a common saying used to “convince customers they will get good service and convince employees to give customers good service” as stated by Kjerulk (2014). Yeah, me neither.

However, I have learned over the years that the saying is far from accurate and, if anything, simply creates more frustration. Nobody likes a know-it-all. It makes the receiving end feel defeated. Now, the customer may not always be right, but don’t get too ahead of yourself–the informer is not always right either. Put simply, the customer is not always right, but neither are you.

Taking on a dual perspective

Understanding the key resources available to you is imperative when doing your day-to-day work and when asking for assistance. I have been the customer, I have been the service representative, and I have been wrong in both situations. Being a customer, you want to think you are correct when consulting on an inquiry, that it impacts the way you address the other party. Being an informer, you want to think you’re correct because, hey, it’s your job, not the customer’s, right? But be honest with yourself–you don’t know everything. I have been a frustrated customer before; we all have. I have also been the “well I work here” employee, in my mind. The reality is, you need to slow down. Slowing down and reviewing the key resources available to me has helped me gain and grow with my knowledge in the customer service field and my day-to-day operations.

If you’re in the customer’s shoes, think about the resources available to you. Is there a live chat? Are there any instructive guides? Do you have a dedicated representative? Are there employees around? Remember that the person on the other end is not your enemy. The person on the other end is trying to help you the best they can. You and the other party need to work together to get a positive outcome.

On the customer service representative’s end, you also need to think about the resources available to you. What do you remember from your training? Where are all the common resources located? Who is available to you? What is available to you? And do not forget, the person on the other end is truly depending on the accuracy of the information you provide and your support.

What you can do as an employee

So, where do you start? Thinking of customer service where I work, I started putting a list together of what is available to me – the top resource being software reference guides. These guides cover popular items of day-to-day work for various areas and departments related to our system. The guides are made as a reference that contain valuable information needed to complete the tasks in question.

For example, there is a new reference guide on our website that covers payment reversal and adjustments. This is not a strong area for me; however, I know it was created by a team of experts and questions do come up. The booklet helps guide me through instances where a client does not know the appropriate steps to take when performing an adjustment or when a client wants to ensure they are posting something accurately. I am not the expert, so I look at the information available to me that was provided by the experts. It takes time to fully understand a task the RIGHT way, so if I receive an inquiry in relation to reversals or adjustment, I sit back and lay all the information out based on my knowledge.

Following my layout, I then check my steps before providing them to the client. There is always a chance I can be wrong, and I can provide inaccurate information. No matter how confident I am in an area, I am not always right. However, I choose to use the resources around me to help me teach others. It is always better to take a minute to learn something instead of providing inaccurate data. Remember, you are trying to teach the receiving end and help them for future references.

What you can do as a customer

Now thinking of customer service when being the customer yourself is a whole other ballgame. If you work for a financial institution and you are contacting your data processor regarding an inquiry, there is a good chance you know how the system works. However, you may not know how the entire system works. Software is large and can work in many ways. Please understand, that’s okay. You are not defeated because you do not understand how to complete a task. There is a way you can still help. The information you provide to the other party may help them help you.

As I mentioned in part one, communication is essential. As a customer, provide as much detail as you can to the other party and ask questions. Help them understand what you are looking for. Don’t get frustrated because you want something to work a certain way, work with the other party to better understand why something is not doing what you want. It could be as simple as correcting the date or they may have an even better resolution for your task. It is imperative that you work together to get a good outcome.

A perfect example of this happened to me a couple of months ago. I had a client reach out to me about NCUA recommended general ledgers. The client knew what he was looking for and could explain to me what the general ledger was for, but just could not remember the recommended associated number. He started off the call with this information and allowed me to do my part to provide him the number. The inquiry was resolved in less than ten minutes because we both worked together. He provided me all of the information he had and understood I would need a minute to find the associated number. The client taught me more about the general ledger and in return helped me educate him. We put our brains together instead of one against another and received a positive outcome.

Keep learning

Learning opportunities present themselves in every individual’s day-to-day life. Take that knowledge or that resource and grow from it. Look around you, look at what is available to you and think about how you can use it in a positive way. Think about you can help the person on the receiving end. You are not out to get one another; you are looking to learn or teach one another. Stay positive and keep yourself at a professional level of character throughout each day and while engaging with any respective party.  Two minds are better than one.

Coming soon: Part 3: Ask Questions – Build a Best Practice


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