In previous posts [(1) (2) (3)], we focused on authenticity in customer service. Being authentic in customer service means that the customer service rep demonstrates a genuine desire to do what is right for the customer. But what if what is right for the customer is not what the customer says he or she wants – or is asking for? The customer isn’t always right, and being authentic sometimes means letting them know.
Take, for example, a blog post we really enjoyed written by a guy named Rob – entitled “How to Detect a Toxic Customer”. Sometimes, your potential customers are vast reservoirs of viscous, acerbic sludge that will pollute the health of your company at best, or at worst, vaporize you upon contact. Citing a specific story in which he interacted with a toxic customer, Rob writes:
Few things are worse than supporting a demanding, entitled customer who feels that their purchase price buys them control over your life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
In the end, it turns out that all the demands of Rob’s customer were completely unnecessary and overly complicated. (The Toxic Customer was eventually booted from his liaison role by another representative from the same company – who turned out to be much more civil and sane, and in fact – easy to work with.) At each point in the conversation with the Toxic Customer, Rob respectfully focused on his expressed desires (even though those desires seemed to be excessive). On the surface, Rob’s behavior could be perceived as authenticity. However, the real authenticity in this situation was demonstrated when Rob really started to question the expressed desires of the customer with boldness and tact.
The old adage “the customer is always right” isn’t always right – especially if we rely on the customer to be able to accurately express his needs. Great customer service is a partnership. Authenticity can mean pulling the plug on the relationship if that partnership can’t be effectively achieved.