"The customer is always right." That is probably the most-heard sentence when companies talk about customer service. Yet, in reality, we all know that not every customer is right.

I recently read a popular update on Facebook about a group of unpleasant customers in a hotel. The post received about 8,500 likes, 350 comments and 3,300 shares on Facebook.

According to this update, a guest stayed in a Holiday Inn in Europe, which charges 3.50 euros an hour for Wi-Fi service. During his stay, he witnessed an interesting incident in which he thought the hotel staff had done an excellent job in teaching some unpleasant guests a lesson.

The incident began with an uproar among a large group of international tourists in the hotel lobby because they thought the hotel was ripping them off with a fee for the Wi-Fi service — obviously, they do not understand why some hotels charge a fee for Wi-Fi. To make it worse, a couple of guests even cursed the staff working at the front desk.

Then, the hotel staff called the police. The police officers arrived 10 minutes later. The guests immediately ceased the uproar and went back to their rooms but wait, this is not the end of the story.

The hotel went a step further. The front desk agents, together with the officers, checked every single room that was reserved by this group until they found those two guests who cursed them earlier.

Once those two guests were identified the front desk agents asked the guests to immediately leave the property because they felt they had been threatened by the guests earlier. Otherwise, they would file a police report and request for a formal investigation.

The guests finally realized how serious things had turned. They ended up leaving the hotel with their luggage in front of the police. They waited outside of the property until midnight when both the police and the evening-shift staff had left the hotel. That night, they had to sleep on the floor in the tour guide's room.

I was not present in the hotel when the incident took place, so it was more of hearsay to me, but this case raised a couple of good questions in customer service: Are customers always right? More importantly, when customers are not right, how should we deal with them?

Here are my suggestions:

  • Listen to the customers and try to understand what is the real issue.
  • Remain focused on the real issue.
  • Be fair to every customer who experiences the same issue.
  • When customers do not understand a company's policy, do not just repeat what is written in the handbook. Rather, explain to the customers one more time with examples or use less technical terms.
  • Do not respond or react when customers curse. One may excuse himself/herself from the customers, step away from the scene and seek for assistance/support from other staff or immediate supervisors.
  • Follow the company's policy when dealing with unpleasant customers (to call the police in this case).
  • Document the evidence that helps support the company's decision of not serving the customers.
  • Keep a list of those guests who had abused the service in a database and pay special attention to them in the future.

What are the remedies you use when dealing with unpleasant customers?