Guest Editorial

By Fred Martel

One of the big challenges in business is dealing with an irate customer. They are usually irrational, and patience is the only cure.

Fred Martel
Fred Martel

What you may find difficult is tolerating an irate customer who is convinced that he or she knows your business, and takes too much license in criticizing the situation at hand.

I’m sure you’ve been confronted with more than one such person who tried your patience on the telephone. I have. They can bring you to the point where you want to make the trip to his office just to see if he would carry on the same way in person. But you do not go. In my case I listen, and practice what I preach. As his venting eased, I used knowledge to counter the criticism.

This person was right – to a point. Customers have a right to be right. They do not have the right to assume that they know the business of the person and company they are dealing with. Insults and poor advice based on misinformation are unnecessary. They can make their point without providing a “speech” on how it should be done. Your customer’s obligation is to merely point out dissatisfaction, and ask for an explanation or a cure. In the example above, the individual was less interested in a cure, and seemed to be more interested in being right about his knowledge, and he had little to go on.

Having said all of this, the customer is, in fact, always right. He or she paid for a product or service, and deserves satisfaction. Your job as a businessperson is to wait out the storm of irrational behavior and agree with the reason for the call. You should, however, not let this person challenge your knowledge or ability until you have been given a chance to make amends.

Irate customers need to be reminded politely that you are not about to surrender your dignity any more than they would if the roles were reversed. Arguing is definitely out of the question, since nothing can be accomplished when two or more people are speaking. If you keep quiet, they cannot argue alone.