Customer Service – Easy to get Right, Devastating if Wrong

One of my first jobs as a kid was working retail in a motorcycle shop.  My Dad use to tell me, “Son, they are coming to you to buy something.  It is their choice – don’t make them regret it.”  Sure, as a kid, I took that as “just do what they say and smile”.  As I’ve gotten older, however, I think it is time to update my take on what my Dad was trying to teach me.

The old addage is the “customer is always right” is wrong.  I know, that might sound a bit anti-customer service, but it is true.  Customer’s aren’t always right.  Sometimes they make really bad decisions.  A customer can easily cost you more money then the profits you’d hope to make, in which case, who cares what the customer wants – right?

Not so fast.

I think a company has a responsibility to always be thinking with their customers best interest in mind.  That doesn’t always mean if a customer calls screaming you should simply hang up the phone or take the beating, but it does mean that you should always ask yourself what you could be doing better to prevent such interactions from occuring in the first place.

For example – if a return policy is vague, the customer may translate it in a way that is completely outside of what you are willing to do. That might lead to the customer getting frustrated and angry when their request could be justifiably unreasonable.  The fault, however, is yours in this situation.  Don’t be vague.  Make sure your customers understand in clear language what your return policy is.  Look at our return policy:

We want you to be happy with your purchase.  If you are not completely satisfied with your FOT swag, we will gladly accept the return or exchange of unworn, unwashed or defective items, within 14 days of receipt of  purchase.  Your card will be promptly credited (less the initial shipping charges) upon receipt.  For additional instructions on how to return your FOT purchase, please email us at [email protected]

There are no reasons as to “why” someone can return a shirt they buy from us.  None of that, “it has to be an order screw up or clearly a manfacturing error” type language.  If you don’t like it, send it back.  We do, and we’d love to make sure our shirts end up in the hands of people who will want to wear them.  We do, however, make it clear that we believe you will know within 14 days if our shirts make you happy.  We clearly indicate how we return the funds, and provide instructions for emailing us should you have any specific questions about our return policy.

The point of this is to make your customers well informed.  If they have an understanding of what their obligation is, and what you are willing to do to support them, they are alot less likely to lose their mind and subsequently do damage to your brand.

Customer service should happen well before the customer ever contacts you.  Transparency, where reasonable, and setting realistic expectations go a long way with most people.  Be open in your approach, and use every actual encounter as a spring board to tweak your process to ensure the next customer doesn’t have a similar challenge.

Good customer service leads to good customers.  Take care of them and they will take care of you.

About the Author

I'm a serial entrepreneur, a husband, and a father. I love developing applications and writing about technology, t-shirts, and any other issues that can occupy my attention. At, I'm el jefe and enjoy working with indie brands and promoting wearable art.

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