Imagine a first time customer at your shop. You just finished repairing the screen on their iPhone, in almost record time. You’re going above and beyond. You even throw on a screen protector for free as a courtesy and sure enough, the customer breaks their screen a week after repair. They come back stating the screen shouldn’t have cracked with your screen protector and “weak quality” screen installed. You agree to replace the screen again, absorbing the cost. A couple of weeks later, the screen has “touch disease”.  The customer now has -7 faith points in your services up until this point so surely it must have something to do with your parts and/or your work right? The reputation of your store is on the line, and we all know bad reviews can cost so much more than arguing with the customer in the long run. Besides, you already know how these things go when you try to be diplomatic or informative. The customer usually won’t believe you (or they do but know they still have a Sun-Tzu style attack planned on your integrity) so what do you do? You try a few more screens but the same issue remains. It turns out there is a logic board failure, something you know has nothing to do with your workmanship. Already out a screen and your time, now you’ve sunken to the Titanic wreckage site. The only options are to micro-solder the logic board or replace the phone altogether. Neither of these routes are cheap, ideal or even guaranteed to work. After the issue is resolved, it’s still not even likely that the customer will have a favorable view of your business.

When the dust settles, one can find humor and solace within the irony that “no good deed goes unpunished”.  Something you might have heard your grandpa say. These are the moments where you might briefly abandon your faith in karma. If you’re trying to do a good deed, sometimes the truth of an indifferent universe doesn’t set you free. Sadly, in the repair industry, this happens more than one would think. This could be repairing a device for a friend or business acquaintance and let’s say the unusual part it needs is delayed in shipping a week after a quick turnaround is promised. This might be replacing that phone screen for the third time at a discount or bundling a repair in for free. There are times when it pays off and perhaps times that it doesn’t. All of a sudden, the free repair ends up being some freakish failure in the logic board but in the customer’s eyes, you caused the problem. On the contrary, you may get a great review for your efforts.

After a certain amount of these kinds of situations, a manager or business owner may challenge their own stance on their business philosophy. It can get tricky as there seems to be a grey area between falling on your sword or protecting your business and employees’ dignity. Do you give employees carte blanche over how to handle accusatory customers or do you have a no tolerance policy so that you don’t get burned? This great article gives 5 compelling points in support of the latter. I suspect most owners would go with the former. The old adage “chalk it up to the game” just may have been the attitude that brought them to where they are on the “ma & pa” shop vibe within public perception up until this point. For some, this is the cornerstone of their business philosophy and how they keep loyal customers.

However, amongst the countless “the customer is always…not right” articles written recently, there seems to be very few still backing the sentiment that customers are in fact, always right. Those such articles in favor of this viewpoint are quite difficult to find these days. Also, it’s difficult to put into words what this concept looks like on paper or what sort of coaching for employees there should be to really define expectations for each situation. This sentiment is the embodiment of an increasingly bygone doctrine of doing business. Either way, it seems vital to have an established understanding of protocol within the whole organization for different scenarios involving difficult customers. This ensures everyone on your end is right, when the customer is always right.