There’s a concept that’s a bit taboo within the brand-to-customer relationship — sometimes, the customer isn’t always right. This is, of course, a reversal of the old saw "The customer is always right," which has been passed down through the generations as a fail-safe policy, but in actuality can lead your brand down the path to mediocrity.

Here's the deal: The customer isn’t always right, and believing that they are could potentially lead your brand to make unnecessary and dramatic strategic changes.

Yeah, that’s right — I said it. The customer isn’t always right.

Evaluating Negative Customer Feedback to Avoid Upheaval

A customer who takes the time to spell out your brand's shortcomings isn’t always a representation of your brand's reality in the wider realm of the majority of your customers. However, the feedback from this unhappy customer is something that needs to be approached with some calculation and sensitivity. When trying to determine the validity of such accusations, there are certain questions you should abide by to avoid making decisions that could uproot and change your business — only to end up pleasing just one customer.

Is this customer right? Do we need to change our business approach? How many other customers out there think this way?

All valid questions, but before we go all  "Armageddon" on your brand and/or your customer service, here are three steps to validate whether your customers' complaints hold water.

Related Article: Enough Already With Customer Feedback. Make Your Move

Verify Customer Feedback Against Data Before Taking Action

Listen, you can’t bounce your customer out of the club before checking their ID. Before we jump to conclusions regarding negative customer feedback, we first need to dive into the data that surrounds this particular customer.

How long have they been a customer? Is this their first complaint? Are other customers complaining about the same issue? Dig deep into your customer history files to determine what is fact and what is fiction.

Don't Jump to Conclusions: Adopt a Holistic Customer View

Taking a holistic view of a customer can help. What I mean by that is you could have a customer who provides negative feedback — but is one of your best highest-spend customers. Surface level logic would say any negative feedback this person provides is warranted because they are one of your top customers.

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However, this potentially could be very, very untrue. Just because you have a customer whose purchase totals are in the top 1% of all your customers doesn’t mean their negative feedback is right. A brand must look at other factors to determine if this sentiment is valid, and then determine what pivots are needed to correct negative experiences.

Related Article: Customer Experience Conundrum: Fix Bad Experiences or Make Good Ones Better?

Use VoC to Understand Your Customers' Experiences

It’s always a good idea — no I take that back, a great idea — to continually perform voice of the customer (VoC) activities to gather feedback on what customers are enjoying, disliking and experiencing with your brand. The survey results will provide you a detailed view of the entire customer population, which should reveal some key themes that you can cross reference back to your data and specific situations to determine what is valid.

Listen, I’m not here saying, “tell your customer who complained to kick rocks.” What I’m saying is this: There are other external factors that sometimes cause customers to have exaggerated responses to various situations with your brand. Maybe they had a bad day at work, maybe they missed their connecting flight — there could be numerous reasons why a customer complains.

Yes, some complaints are valid, and your brand needs to make things right with the customer who had a bad experience — but it doesn't mean you have to change your whole customer experience strategy. Before we up and change how a brand operates and positions itself, let’s take some time to dig deep into the data, the situation and the overall sentiment of your customer base before any drastic changes are made.

It's Your Party: Customers Show Up for a Good Time

As Jeff Bezos once said, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party.” Yes, your customer is invited to your brand's party and sure, maybe they don’t like the queso dip you put out at this particular party — but that doesn’t mean they can’t still have a good time.

It’s your job as the host of the party to attend to the needs of your customer — even when they complain about your queso dip when you know it would likely garner some Michelin stars. But the bottom line is you don't have to uproot all of your customer experience processes in doing so. 

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