The customer is always right. Or are they? Steps to deal with consumer conflict.

Contemporary business approaches to consumer conflict is simply the consumer is always right. However anyone who has worked in customer service can attest to the fact that this is not accurate. We believe this statement should be adjusted to ‘the customer must always think they’re right’.

Why? It is definitely more beneficial to act as if your customer is right. The word of mouth ramifications of failing to do so are mammoth. Twice as many people hear of negative experiences than positive ones. Dissatisfied consumers disclaim to approximately 9-16 people, and 13% of these customers tell 20 or more people. Comparatively, satisfied customers with resolved issues will tell 4-6 people1. When it comes to social media, active participants will share a negative experience with 53 people2.

So suck in your pride and put on a smile. Here are some simple steps to deal with consumer conflict.

1. Ask questions

By gathering all information initially, poor communication or misunderstandings are avoided and potentially diffusion of conflict achieved. It could be a recipe for a quick remedy.

2. Analyse expectations

Aim to seek what the consumer is expecting to attain out of this conflict. Often it’s easier to reach their needs if you can find a ground of expectations.

3. Apologise

Stay calm in conflict situations. Apologise for the miscommunication, error or confusion. While this may not defuse the situation it may prevent it from being escalated.

4. Adopt differing perspectives

Ensure you are open minded and considerate of how the consumer is feeling. An issue may have arisen simply due to differing opinions, cultural or personal disparities.

5. Commitment

Commit to working out a solution that will satisfy the consumer party, while is still in reach of your business capabilities. Check with superiors to confirm you are taking reasonable steps.

6. Integration

To avoid conflict in the future adjust to what you have learned from the experience. It could be as simple as a sign on the door or a staff meeting on approaching conflict accurately.

As such, good customer service is a potent business asset and word of mouth one of the most powerful marketing tools.


1 Word of Mouth Marketing Association. (2016). Retrieved from:
2 Leung, S. (2015). Retrieved from:


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