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Jan 24, 2017 11:00:00 AM | Project Management The Customer is NOT Always Right- How to Address Customers Politely

“The customer is always right”. We often hear it said, yet is this always the case? How should one react when faced with a wrong or difficult customer?

“The customer is always right” - We often hear it said, yet is this always the case? This phrase originated in 1909 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store in London. But could it be that the customer isn’t always right? How should an employee react when faced with a difficult customer, especially if they are in the wrong?

In the book “How to Win Customers and Keep Them for Life”, Michael Leboeuf discusses how 68% of customers leave a business, just due to the treatment they have received. Whether a customer is right or wrong, it is your job to treat them as if they are right. Below are some tips to address wrong customers politely.

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When faced with a customer with a business complaint, the first thing to do is listen to their concerns. While they might not have solid evidence to back what they say, do not interrupt them. Once they have finished talking, summarize what they said in your words. This allows you to verify any information that was given to you.


Show empathy to the customer by making it clear you understand the issue. Apologize on behalf of the company and yourself. State that you understand why the customer is frustrated, and that it is your job to help them.  

Provide reasoning

Next, clearly explain any company policies and procedures that may be applicable. As you discuss these, be sure to demonstrate a concern for their feelings- rather than becoming defensive. Customers are more likely to react positively to facts (like company policies) than they are to your emotions.


In many situations, you could offer to speak to a higher- up to see if you can accommodate their request. It is likely a customer may not be aware of certain policies in place. In addition, you could research to see if a mistake was made on the company’s behalf. No company is perfect, and there could be a chance that you really are in the wrong. Always do your best to accommodate customer requests, and try to resolve the issue any way possible (that is ethical and meets company standards).

If, after you do these things, the customer is still discontent, ask them how the misunderstanding could have been prevented in the first place. Although you may not be able to solve every customer’s problems, you may be able to prevent situations from occurring again. No matter the situation, remember to treat your customers with respect and understanding. The process of finding a new customer is 5 to 10 times more expensive than retaining an existing one- all the more reason to treat current customers well.

Alexa Moeller

Written By: Alexa Moeller

Alexa Moeller currently lives in Munroe Falls, Ohio, where she studies Marketing Management at The University of Akron. She is involved with Ericson Manufacturing as a spring intern, working on marketing communications. Alexa is interested in pricing, digital marketing, and international business. In May 2017, she will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Akron’s College of Business Administration.