by | Nov 23, 2019 | Photos

Why The Customer Isn’t Always Right: 7 Steps to Resolving Conflict as a Business Owner

Running a business comes with a myriad of challenges. One of the most difficult aspects of being a business owner is handling customers. As a society, we preach the idea that “the customer is always right” when conducting business.

This catchphrase may seem like a good policy on the surface; however, it will ultimately end up hurting your business. Customer opinions are not the end-all of your business’s success, and there are smoother ways to handle conflict.

Why Are Customers Not Always Right?Miscommunication

Oftentimes, conflict arises from miscommunication between customers and employees. In these cases, there might not be someone who is ‘right’, and the best way to resolve the situation is by providing clarification.

Employee Morale

Having to appease rude customers constantly is emotionally draining for employees. This can cause a negative work environment where employees feel underappreciated, which can lead to mass quitting and staffing problems.

You Can’t Satisfy Everyone

Once conflict begins, certain customers simply want to be angry or cause a scene. These people are impossible to pacify, and the best way to handle the situation is by controlling your reaction.

Not All Customers Are Worth Keeping

When it comes to running a business, quality customers are more important than quantity. Any number of loyal customers is better than mass amounts of angry ones. In the long term, losing business to people who are hostile is not always bad.

How Should You Handle Conflict With Customers?

Finding a balance between gracefully handling complaints without bowing to customers’ every whim can be difficult. Here are some tips on how to handle conflict as a business owner:

1. Active listening
2. Assess the situation
3. Apologize
4. Remain calm and positive
5. Determine the best solution
6. Don’t be afraid to put your foot down
7. Follow up

Active Listening

A good way to keep conflict from escalating quickly is to actively listen to customer complaints. Oftentimes, customers feel unappreciated and want to tell the full story from their perspective.

By listening to the customer without interruptions, you can make them feel understood and prevent emotions from getting out of control. Even if you think they are wrong, this is an important first step.

Assess the Situation

As a business owner, you need to trust your intuition when handling customers. Determine what went wrong and the source of the problem.

It is also important to trust your instincts if you feel like a customer is lying or being unfair. Protecting your reputation as a business from people who are untruthful is just as important as good PR.


Apologizing is another preventative measure to stop conflict from quickly escalating. Again, even if the customer is in the wrong, an apology is the first step in maintaining open communication.

Some people simply want their complaints to be heard and nothing else. In these situations, an apology, especially coming from the owner of a business, will satisfy their unhappiness and prevent customers from getting more hostile.

Remain Calm and Positive

Professionalism is a key factor in any successful business. When a customer talks to someone in charge, they expect a certain demeanor. It can be hard to remain calm if you are dealing with a hostile customer, but it is important that you keep a level head when handling conflict.

Positivity goes a long way! If a customer interacts with an employee who is just as rude as them, this can cause tensions to increase. A good attitude can shift someone’s perspective when dealing with a problem.

Determine the Best Solution

Every problem is different, and as a result, every problem will require a different solution. It is your job to figure out the best way to respond to the issue.

Many times, giving someone their money back is an adequate way to resolve any situation. Replacing products that were faulty or damaged is another example of rectifying unhappy clients.

It is also important that you take preventative steps to keep the issue from happening again. If the problem was a result of an employee error, make sure you address this with your staff to ensure the issue does that happen again.

Don’t Be Afraid to Put Your Foot Down

As a business owner, you have the right to stand up to angry or hostile customers. At the end of the day, how you handle conflict comes down to your call.

Certain people will not accept any solution you provide them. In these instances, it might be better in the long term to refuse further service or communication with an overly angry customer.

As an owner, it is your job to stand up for your brand and your image. If you let customers walk all over you, this sets a precedent and could become a pattern. Setting boundaries is important to prevent this from happening.

Follow Up

Reaching out to customers after a complaint has been dealt with is a great way to handle any blowback. Controlling how you respond to criticism is integral to maintaining a good image.

Be active in how you deal with customer feedback. A great way to ensure this is by responding to reviews left by customers online. If someone leaves a negative review containing false or embellished information, respond to it and clarify what actually happened.

What if these tips do not work?

Remember: You can’t please everyone! It is going to be impossible to appease every issue that comes up when running a business.

The important thing to remember is that maintaining a professional demeanor when you respond to issues is the best way to benefit your business in the long run.

Building a consistent loyal customer base is more important than trying to appease every single conflict that arises. Be willing to cut your losses if a situation can’t be resolved or the customer is unwilling to work with you.
Sources: Forbes, Callminer


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