Dealing With Irrational Customers

Hii Folks!

Before we kick off, I would like to welcome the few hundred folks that joined this week. It’s so humbling to have started this newsie with a tiny crowd and for it to now be shared amongst all of you.

I am beyond grateful. Thank you for sharing it with your friends!

In the last few months, I’ve had my fair share of unreasonable customers, the unconventional superheroes forcing us to challenge the dusty mantra, "The customer is always right."

I know you all probably have as well, so I wanted to walk through how I deal with them and share some thoughts from some of my other friends in the CX space.

  • Re-evaluating the Golden Rule: Is the Customer Always Right?

  • Frontline Wisdom: Dealing with Irrational Customers (Insights from Michael Bair, Zoe Kahn, Jess Cervellon, and Shaina Michalowicz)

  • Unleashing the Power of Refunds: Knowing When to Use the Tool

This week’s newsie is brought to you by Tapcart!

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The Messi Store: They launched their app in November 2020, amid the pandemic, and perfectly timed for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This strategic launch, combined with exclusive promotions and discounts exclusive to the app, led to a significant surge in mobile app downloads. The Messi folks tripled their sales during the first month of the app launch. Currently, the app outperforms the website with 2.4x better conversions and generates 1.6x higher revenue per session.

Reason Clothing: They wanted to amplify its sales in a way that resonated with customers during the holiday season. The brand decided to partner with Tapcart just before Black Friday. The quick setup of their plug-and-play app resulted in significant gains - a 42% increase in overall Black Friday Cyber Monday revenue the year of the launch.

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Re-evaluating the Golden Rule: Is the Customer Always Right?

In the world of customer service, the old adage "the customer is always right" has been both a guiding principle and a cross to bear.

The rule suggests a deep dedication to customer satisfaction and the lengths businesses are willing to go to create a positive customer experience. But is it still applicable in our era?

There is a widespread acceptance of the maxim that businesses must bend over backward to ensure customer satisfaction, stemming from the assumption that happy customers are loyal customers.

In essence, that's true. A happy customer means repeat business, positive reviews, and word-of-mouth recommendations.

But at what cost?

Adhering strictly to the "customer is always right" rule can create an unhealthy dynamic where customers, aware of their "righteous" status, may exploit the system.

While most customers are generally reasonable, there's always a minority that can be difficult to manage, bringing in unrealistic expectations or even behaving irrationally.

For instance, a customer is upset because a product they received wasn't quite what they expected. We can and should empathize with them—after all, who hasn't been there?

But what if this customer's demands spiral out of control, expecting a refund and compensation for their perceived (or perhaps real) emotional distress?

And what if they threaten to leave a slew of negative reviews if their demands aren't met?

This scenario is a real dilemma, as it veers sharply from a justified grievance into more irrational territory. Strictly adhering to "the customer is always right" would suggest that we should always acquiesce to their demands. But where do we draw the line?

In the last few years, I’ve seen customer demands heighten, and expectations rise. Customers are coming in hotter than ever, even though they usually will step back once we reply with kindness and candor.

There have been many shipping issues, and the bar for customer experience is relatively low, so I can get where that energy comes from.

Ultimately, businesses need to protect not only their customers but also their employees and brand.

Creating an environment where employees are forced to accept abusive behavior is unhealthy and damaging to morale. And taking the hit on irrational demands can hurt the brand in the long run.

But how do we deal with irrationality?

Frontline Wisdom: Dealing with Irrational Customers (Insights from Michael Bair, Zoe Kahn, Jess Cervellon, and Shaina Michalowicz)

Michael Bair, SVP of CX at FIGS, shared some insightful advice that aligns perfectly with evolving the "customer is always right" mentality.

He says, "It’s never about the thing. There’s always more to the story. Figure out what it is to come to a mutually beneficial resolution."

Bair's comment hits at the heart of the matter. It's not always about the customer's specific issue—it's about understanding the underlying factors that led to their frustration or dissatisfaction.

It requires going beyond the surface-level problem, digging deeper, and unraveling the knot of customer discontent.

Zoe Kahn, Manager of CX and Retention at Chomps, has some important practical tips:

  1. Publicly sharing company policies: This helps set standards and manage customer expectations. It also allows their team to refer to these policies when a customer requests something outside of them. Check out their policies here.

  1. Mentioning one-time exceptions: When Chomps makes an exception to these policies, they make sure to frame it as a "one-time exception." This enables them to maintain their policies' integrity while meeting the customer's needs in that instance.

  1. Not tolerating abusive behavior: If a customer resorts to swearing or insults, they have the right to "fire" the customer in the most respectful way possible.

Jess Cervellon, VP of CX at Feastables, outlines her three key areas where dealing with customers can be challenging:

  1. Subscription renewals: Customers often overlook notifications and then blame the company. Here, she uses this as an opportunity to resolve the issue and educate the customer about the subscription and how to manage it.

  1. Expectations of winning: Feastables, a heavily giveaway-oriented brand, often deals with customers expecting freebies. Here, the goal is to educate the customer on the rules while maintaining a friendly attitude and inviting them to participate again.

  1. Dealing with derogatory remarks: In one instance where a customer made derogatory remarks, Cervellon responded by refunding the customer and then discontinuing their access to the platform. This response reaffirms the commitment to protect the employees and maintain the dignity of the community.

Rounding up this group of frontline leaders, Shaina Michalowicz, Customer Care Lead at Madhappy, shares her take on handling customer complaints. Shaina highlights the importance of maintaining empathy and active listening.

She advises, "A sincere apology and offering a solution within your policy (partial refund on shipping, discount code, etc.) to address their concerns goes a long way.

Following up to ensure their satisfaction and using the feedback as an opportunity for improvement (and I like to let them know we will also share the feedback)."

Dealing with irrational customers goes beyond just problem-solving. It requires an understanding of the customer's mindset, effective communication, and a commitment to protect both the employee's and the brand's integrity. It's about developing strategies that are both customer-oriented and respectful and considerate to all involved.

Unleashing the Power of Refunds: Knowing When to Use the Tool

Early in my career, I remember dealing with a fuming customer over a delayed order. His frustration was palpable. We thought refunding his order would be the best way to alleviate his dissatisfaction and show him we valued his business.

Simple, right? Not so fast.

Upon receiving the refund notification, the customer reached out— and was even more annoyed than before. He said that he hadn't been seeking a refund. Instead, he wanted to be heard, and his concerns acknowledged and validated.

This incident was a wake-up call. It made me realize that sometimes, in a rush to find a quick resolution and 'right the wrongs,' we might choose the easy refund when the customer wants something far more profound.

A refund can often be a lazy choice. It's an easy, clear-cut resolution that shows the customer you're willing to rectify the issue. But it doesn't always hit the mark, especially when the customer seeks validation for their feelings of frustration and disappointment.

What could have been more impactful in that situation?

A heartfelt, sincere apology—an "I" apology, acknowledging the customer's frustration and the company's part in causing it, can often go much further than a mere refund. It sends the message that not only do we understand their disappointment, but we also genuinely regret our part in causing it.

"I'm sorry that your order was delayed, and I understand how frustrating this must be for you. We messed up, and we're doing everything we can to make it right."

This type of validation can reassure customers that their feelings are acknowledged, and their business is valued.

Refunds are indeed a powerful tool in a company's customer service toolkit. But they're not the only tool, nor should they always be the first we reach for. As in all things, understanding and empathy go a long way—sometimes even further than a refund.

Any topics you'd like to see me cover in the future?

Just shoot me a DM or an email!

See you next week,

Eli 💛