Responding to Customers When They Are Wrong

“Don’t find fault. Find a remedy.” – Henry Ford

While running a business, one is always dealing with customers. Most companies constantly instruct their customer service staff to accept whatever customers say – effectively accepting that the customer is always right. Of course, this is not true but what is true is that customers hate hearing that they are wrong, even if they are. It has become exceedingly important for companies to learn the art of responding to customers when they are wrong. Customers need to know that they are understood, appreciated, will get what they want and will be made to feel special. Using courtesy and politeness when responding to customers when they are wrong will make them feel valued and right. This behaviour would encourage them to continue their business association with the company. In responding to customers even when they are wrong, the company and its representatives must remember that rudeness, inflexibility and a lack of understanding could make a potentially explosive situation. At all times, a company must remain aware of what customers value the most.

While customers may not always be right, they are important for any business. Responding to customers with patience and empathy even when they are wrong, would make them feel more engaged with the company. Most often, customers probably do not even realize that they are wrong. Even if you know that they are wrong, it is important to first look inward – could your company be wrong or could it try to see the situation from the customer’s perspective? Before responding to customers, even when your experience tells you that they are wrong, it is imperative to view the situation objectively and remain unassuming when dealing with them.

The first and most important thing for companies to remember when responding to customers, even when you believe they are wrong, is that customers know what they want better than the company would. They also know what their clients need and what would be the best way to serve them. In turn, when they approach you as your customer, they expect to receive the same amount of attention and understanding. When responding to your customers, when you believe they are wrong, a company must first explore why the customer would be behaving a certain way and why the customer believes they have the right to make the request. If your company can ascertain that the customer is wrong, it is imperative that when responding to them, you make them feel right and comfortable. No one said customer service was an easy task. It is a constant balancing act between responding to customers in the most appropriate manner while ensuring that the company’s objectives remain uncompromised.

The harsh reality of customer service is that when customers connect, it is usually to receive answers to queries or for a resolution to a problem. It is not often that customers call to thank or acknowledge the good work done by the company. When customer’s call to complain, quite often it may not be the company’s fault, but their own. However, it is imperative to find solutions and not find fault and lay blame. The critical thing to remember when responding to customers is to make them feel that their problem is important for your company and it will be resolved. Such situations are opportunities for companies to reiterate and reinforce to customers that they could never find a better business partner than the company. This is despite the fact that the customer could be wrong. In the course of finding a resolution, the customer would figure out that it was their fault and be even more appreciative of your efforts. Does your company believe in responding to customers respectfully even if they are wrong? What steps do you take to ensure that this happens across your company?

Just as with any problem in customer service, the ideal way of responding to customers is to apologize for the inconvenience that they may have had. By displaying empathy at the outset, what you would be ‘saying’ to the customer is that your company is committed to ensuring their comfort and happiness. From your experience, you would probably know after hearing the problem, that the fault lies with the customer, but it is crucial to keep the ego and righteousness in check and acknowledge the feelings of the customer. The idea is to see the situation from the customer’s point of view – the customer would be hassled and worried because of the issue and all they would need is for someone to listen to them. For them, their issue is foremost and stressful and therefore nothing else matters. By being polite and reassuring when responding to customers, you would put them at ease and create a situation where they would be willing to listen and accept your solutions.

We all know that customer service is a relentless and repetitive job – representatives hear the same kind of issues and complaints almost every day. Hence, it is very likely that they would be tempted to react to a customer complaint even without letting the customer say what they would like to. Responding to customers in this way could blow the situation out of control – it is important to allow the customer to vent. By doing so, they would feel more relieved and assured that someone is there who would take the time to listen to them. Speak to customers in a kind and soothing tone, assuring them that you would handle their problem. Start by asking the right questions. As customers begin providing answers, they would realize that it was possibly their fault and that the problem occurred due to something they did. This would save you the trouble of bringing the fault to their notice!

As mentioned, the customer service job can become quite onerous and tedious, given that representatives deal with customers through the day and often will the similar issues / queries. This could possibly make them complacent and believe that they know exactly what the customer is saying, without actually listening and could just assume that the customer is wrong. Responding to customers with such a mind-set, would most definitely result in a sullen and slovenly behaviour, which could make small problem become a full-fledged complaint.

The most effective way of responding to customers even when they are wrong is to know exactly what to say to them. This is the art of ‘speaking the customer’s language’ – speaking to them with words and phrases that would make sense to them. This effectively means refraining from using company and or industry jargon. It would be easier to provide advice and feedback to customers, especially when they are wrong if your company has been able to gain their confidence by talking to them in a way they understand.

Responding to customers especially to let them know that they are wrong can be highly stressful and require a great deal of tact. However, if your company has managed to gain their trust over time, they would be amenable to take your recommendations and accept their mistake. Customer trust as we know, does not come about easily, and takes years to build. However, with sustained efforts and top class service, a company would succeed in responding to customers effectively, even when letting customers know that they are wrong. Whatever the problem and whoever was at fault, all customers want to know is that your company would be able to provide a swift and effective solution, with the least possible hassle to and effort from the customers.

Despite your best efforts, there will always be some disappointed customers – due to either your fault or their own. In either case, it would be the duty of the company to ensure that when responding to customers, you display professionalism and extreme care, and in return win their loyalty and repeat business.

Learn about a new approach to better customer service!

Interactive Guides for Superior Customer Service



Create interactive decision trees for customer service management, cold call scripts or self-service. Improve sales performance metrics and customer delight across your call centers.

Interactive Decision Tree