Apple Horror Story: Why the Customer Is Not Always Right

7 min read
Sep 30, 2016
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The customer is not always right

The “customer is always right” slogan is both: a customer service mantra and a curse. On one hand, it encourages representatives to go above and beyond customers’ expectations. On the other hand, when the customer is not right, reps still have to provide the best possible service and have no right to say "no."

An example:

For you and me, a broken phone is not a big deal. However, some people would treat it like a disaster. They will vent on customer service agents: shout, swear and demand compensations (because the customer is always right).

Ready for the best part?

They very often get what they want. They trample over customer service reps and show a complete lack of consideration for them, and yet they are treated in the same way as polite customers.

I understand why it happens. When someone is bothersome, it’s hard to resist the temptation to say “OK, take whatever you want and just go away.”

Do I agree with it? Not at all. Because the customer is not always right.

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This time when it wasn't easy to be in Apple's customer service

The Worst Apple Store Customer Horror Story” is about a woman whose iPhone broke. Obviously, she went to the nearest Apple Store to have it fixed.

When she approach the counter, she started the conversation in a very unusual way: by yelling at the Apple’s representative.

I just want you to either fix my phone or get me a new one. Now, like, right now. Otherwise, I’m going to leave this shitty fucking phone here and get a Samsung.

As you can expect, the rep did not ask the woman to hold her temper. He did everything to please her instead. He listened, explained and tried to solve the problem although it turned out that the phone was out of warranty.

Luckily for the rude customer, the store manager agreed to replace the phone with a new one. The only problem was that this particular model was in other Apple store.

Why can’t he drive and get it for me? I’m not leaving until I get a phone.

After an intense discussion, the customer changed her mind and asked for an iPhone 6 Plus. The manager explained that she could not have it without additional costs.

Stop, never say "can’t" to a customer.

Finally, the manager came up with an idea to give the customer a loaner phone. He runs to the back, brought the phone, explained that a new iPhone would be ordered and the customer left the shop.

The story was presented as an example of Apple’s extraordinary customer service, but it made me wonder: how could this be right?

Let’s summarize it:

A person enters a store behaving loudly and acting rude. Their behavior is insulting for the employee, they disturb other customers and still – are granted a new phone although not eligibled to get one.

You would expect the customer to appreciate the fact that both Apple employees bent over backwards to satisfy her.

Well, not this time.

“Frankly, you guys trying to go above and beyond in terms of helping me makes me sick.”

So the question is: was it worth it?

The above “horror story” may be interpreted as an example of a fantastic customer service where making a customer happy is the most important.

But what I see in this story is rewarding a customer for being an asshole.

“The customer is always right?”

The customer is not a moron. She's your wife.
David Ogilvy

“The customer is always right” is a motto coined by Marshall Field who also used slogan “Give the lady what she wants" in his Chicago department store. He used to say that customers should be treated seriously and should never feel cheated or deceived.

You have probably heard this slogan a couple of times and the meaning was always the same: you’re here to satisfy the customers’ needs and you should always do your best, so they leave your store or finish a chat with you happy.

We all understand where this slogan came from. After all, we understand that great customer experience if a magnet for clients and that they would come back to the store where they previously had an awesome experience, right?

We also understand how important it is not to let customer think that we doubt in their intelligence or that we don’t believe that they can make their choices on their own.

But what happens if customers are dishonest, have unrealistic expectations or use the product in a wrong way? Or worse, what if they are using “the customer is always right” motto to force the acceptance of their claims? Or to behave in an unacceptable way?

In my opinion, sometimes we should forget about this motto, for the sake of other customers and our employees.

Caffee customers the customer is not always right

The price of extraordinary customer service

People love companies with insanely good customer service. Apple is a perfect example: you can have your pizza delivered right to the store, you can read books there, dance in front of Apple’s staff, you can even bring a goat. You can do anything and it’s awesome.

I also like to think about our insanely good Support Heroes. Whenever you contact them, whatever you will ask them, they are always happy to chat. Some customers send them holiday postcards and others order pizza for them! (If you're jealous, you can also start using LiveChat and get free food from happy customers;).

The problem starts when instead of an amusing customer you get a human volcano bursting with rage. How many times have we seen that? Upset customer shouting at waiters, dissatisfied shopper venting on cashiers, rude entrepreneur yelling at staff. Even if they know that these people are just working there.

But how many times have you seen a waiter refusing service until a customer calms down? Or a rep asking a customer to leave and come back when they can control their emotions?

Maybe you’ve seen such a situation once or twice, but you have to admit it does not happen often. And there is only one reason why it doesn’t happen: even when the situation gets out of control, we still believe that “customer is always right.”

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Rude customers are no good for your business

Here are couple of reasons why you should reconsider your “rude customer policy” (even if you have a small business and you don't have thousands of customers):

  1. Loud and rude people create bad customer experience for others. Instead of making every effort to fulfill their demands, make sure they don’t interrupt your other customers.
  2. Your employees are your representatives. People who don’t show them respect, disrespect you and your company. Do you want to have such customers?
  3. Sometimes it is good to say “no” to your customers. If your reps know that in a difficult situation they are allowed to say “no,” they feel more motivated, empowered and are less keen to switch jobs.
  4. We all live in a modern society where good manners, appropriate language and respect to each other should be promoted. Don’t let your agents accept rude behaviour. Instead, encourage good manners and show that politeness pays.

You could ask: what about those people who are having a terrible day and just can’t smile and act nicely? We’re all humans. We all have bad days.

Sure we all have days when we are carried away. But regardless of our feelings, we should try to treat others well. We’re all grown-ups and we should be able to control our emotions. The point is that customers that treat customer service agents badly, should not expect extraordinary treatment.

You don't have to prove a customer wrong, but you can give them a yellow card and let them know where's the line of rude behavior.

Let’s not forget that by allowing customers to behave inappropriately in the presence of other customers; we let them create an unforgettable customer experience.

A bad one.

You may also like How To Deal With Rude Customers and Remain Sane.

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