How to handle conflict and commit to the customer

Derrick C Darden, PhD

There’s an old saying by Sam Walton: “There is only one boss, the customer. Serving the customer is the reason your business exists. In the professional world, your job, whether it’s in sales, services or manufacturing, revolves around the customer.”

However, what happens when there is a conflict between a customer and an employee?

In this short blog, we will talk about how to handle those situations. Unfortunately, they are inevitable, but we have some tips and tricks on how to resolve them.

But before we get to them, I want to tell you a story.

I once heard about a customer who was waiting patiently to be seen by the optometrist to be fitted with new glasses. Her number was finally called, but instead of the optometrist technician waiting directly on her, he decided to answer a question from a customer who hadn’t taken a number at all. “Ironically, this same technician was rude to my husband only a month ago,” the customer remembered.

Now, this customer became infuriated and very loud. Of course, this got the attention of everyone in the store.  In the meantime, the manager was watching this take place in the background and quickly came to the aid of the furious customer. The quickly extinguished the situation. He took care of the customer, and the customer left happy.

As this story illustrates, one way to resolve a conflict to get straight to the source. What is the source? It is the foundation of how this conflict occurred. There’s always a second perception behind the truth. Maybe the customer was irritated by another, unrelated situation. But you assume that all this anger and resentment is geared towards you. Most of the time, the customer doesn’t have a personal problem, but a consumer problem. And, as a consumer, they must get quality and satisfaction.

So avoid complaining to others and whimpering. Avoid negative name-calling and further eroding your relationship with that customer.

Second, dissect the problem, not each other. Attack the problem by looking at it from different angles, then ask the customer to help buy into the solution.

Third, avoid the “blame game.” Instead of wasting your energy in finger-pointing and trying to prove your point (if there is a point to be made), direct your energy to resolving the issue at hand.

Here are some other tips on how to resolve a conflict with a customer:

1.      Listen to your customer’s concerns, get an understanding of what is being said, take off the filters. Listen with both ears, and speak once.

2.      Remember the golden rule: Do onto others as you want them to do unto you. You cannot judge someone. Put yourself in that customer’s shoes. As the saying goes, you can’t judge a person until you walk a mile in their shoes.

3.      Understanding is key. Understand why the conflict happened. What are some of the causes? Never assume that these things always happen.

4.      Lastly, to fix the conflict, go to the customer and make things right between you two. Re-establish your relationship and earn back their trust.

I hope this article will help you with your decision making. And remember – without conflict, life would be boring!


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