You’ve heard the phrase “the customer is always right.” But this conventional wisdom may not actually be true in every situation. Redirecting a customer isn’t always easy but having an honest conversation may make sense for your business. Follow these customer service guidelines to please any type of customer that walks in.

Practice Active Listening

When a customer comes to you with a complaint, actively listen to them by restating their complaint to ensure you understand their frustration. When speaking, help them articulate their pain points, and ask them how they would like you to make it right. By asking them how they would like to see an issue resolved, you are making them an active part of the resolution.

Master the Redirect

When you are speaking with a customer, find out their motivation or their intended use, and guide them to a better alternative. For example, if you own a shoe store and a customer walks in looking for a specific hiking shoe, but you know that they are intending to use them on a hiking expedition. The pair they are looking at is comfortable, but they may not stand up to the terrain challenges of a week-long excursion, don’t be afraid to show them a more durable pair. This customer service example will help your customers rely on you to have in-depth product knowledge, and they look to you for sound advice. If you prefer certain styles or brands, say so, but be prepared to back up your opinions. Most of the time, the customer will respect what you have to say.

Offer Alternatives

Some customers make you work harder for a sale. If you are working with a demanding customer that has very specific ideas about the service they want to receive, but you can’t accommodate their specific request, work to offer alternatives. A simple phrase like, “I won’t be able to do that, but I can offer this instead” works wonders. Whether you are out of an item or the sale they were after has already ended, you can often appease the customer by offering an alternative.

Show Respect

Customer service is a give and take relationship. Your business thrives because of the relationship you build with your customers. If you show your respect to them, even when you disagree with them, your customers will respect you. Remaining calm and speaking rationally while disagreeing will diffuse almost any situation and help you avoid escalation.

Stand Behind Your Employees

If a customer has a specific complaint about the service they have received, follow up with the employee for their side of the story. When you find that they have acted in the best interest of your business, made ethical decisions, and have stood by your core values, stand behind your employees. Your employees are the face of your business to the customer, so they deserve your support. Give your employees the latitude to make the right decision and foster an environment where they want to go above and beyond and produce quality customer service.

Anyone that has ever worked with the public can tell you that it’s not always easy to provide exceptional customer service. But, mastering customer service (even when – or especially when – the customer is wrong) is the key to building long lasting relationships and helping your business flourish. Look for ways to delight your customers, and your business will reap the benefits of your extra effort.