“The customer is always right.” Wrong. This old adage suggests client relationship management best practices revolve around keeping the people or businesses you serve satisfied and happy. Yet there are many instances when the client is most definitely wrong. While it is important to follow the same basic protocol for handling an unhappy client when the company makes an error, there are limits to how far service representatives can go to appease an incorrect claim or complaint.

This balancing act of keeping a client happy while not dedicating too much time or resources to the misunderstanding can be challenging for a startup business with limited staff available. There should be strategies in place to guide client relationship management teams toward the most effective way to deal with such clients without damaging a relationship or sacrificing too much for a single customer. Does your client management team know how to deal with a customer when he or she is wrong?

Make Them Happy, Draw The Line
Dealing with customer anger or disappointment is actually easier when it is the fault of the company. Client relationship management teams can apologize, work to restore trust and explain how the problem is being fixed in detail. When it’s the client who has made the error, however, it is a much more challenging task for relationship managers, who must try to shed light on the reality of the situation without insulting the client or hurting any of the relationship’s.

Here are some basic steps management teams can follow to start the interaction off on the right foot:

  • Listen to client complaints and investigate the situation to determine if the company made an error.
  • Exhaust all possible sources of the problem on the business side to show the customer they are valued.
  • If customers admit it was their mistake, offer solutions that can be implemented on their end to remedy the situation.
  • If the customer fails to see they made the mistake, take the client through the process that may have led up to the inaccuracy step by step to help them understand the situation.

Some clients will not want to accept blame, but rather try to fault the business for placing them in a situation to make a mistake in the first place. At this point in the conversation, the client is demonstrating he or she will not be satisfied with any other outcome except reimbursement or blind acknowledgment of the problem by the business. Because the client’s experience has been damaged by the error, it is likely they will not want to offer repeat business in the future. It is still the responsibility of client relationship management teams to try maintaining the client’s business, but a line must be drawn at some point.

If the customer has no more questions and refuses to take any of the recommended solutions, there is nothing left for client relationship managers to do. Continually appeasing a seemingly impossible-to-please client will not only waste time, but also waste resources on fruitless endeavors that small businesses cannot afford to give up. Make sure client relationship management teams understand the necessary protocol to take when a customer is wrong to try and maintain strong relationships. But emphasize the importance of determining when a customer may be a lost cause for the time being and the conversation should end.