Is the Customer Always Right?

We've all been there.  There's the one customer that takes customer service to its absolute limits.  This customer's demands are so high it makes you second guess the reason you went into business.  It's not uncommon.  

We've all heard the mantra, "The customer is always right".  The customer knows it by heart.  We, as customers, know it by heart.  But is it efficient to do business this way?  

The term was coined by retail pioneers like Harry Gordon Selfridge, John Wanamaker and Marshall Field.  It gave a sense of assurance to the customer so that he or she never felt cheated or deceived.  

Let's talk about the negative connotation that comes with this age-old policy.  

  1. LOSE MONEY MEETING IMPOSSIBLE NEEDS - Whenever a customer complains, we automatically decide that we should solve the problem with free or discounted service in order to retain the customer's business.  Surely, we don't think that word-of-mouth travels fast and soon you have a collection of customer complaints, only to get free services.  Don't believe it?  Call any large customer-based service and threaten to leave their services.  The customer retention policies kick in and you get free or deeply discounted services.  This isn't a necessarily bad policy, but with certain systems in play, can be avoided.

  2. BITTER EMPLOYEES - This mantra can leave your best asset bitter and unproductive.  If they have to suffer through constant and consistent abuse by customers, they can become the worst kind of advertisement for your business.  Our usual solution to this is "just suck it up and do your job", but if constant turnover, negative reviews, and misuse of funds and time are the result of "the customer is always right"; I think I will pass.  

Recently, in our Facebook Group, "Make Your Mark Pros", this question was asked to the small business community.  Most said, surprisingly, that the customer is not always right.  However, this idea of consumer relations has been deeply embedded in us.  If you work by this model, I ask you to reevaluate.  Does this idea fit your business model and your goals? Can you actually survive small business if you had to attach this to each one of your customers?  

Here are steps you can take that can boost business, while satisfying each of your customers.  

  • CLEAR INFORMATION - Whether you do business on a website, by phone, or in person; make sure your sales and service information is clear to the consumer.  All of your policies should leave no stone unturned.  However, make sure your information is attractive.  Don't give your customer a 500 page, well-read novel to discover your policy, procedures, and product.  When you deliver to your customer, whether it is the first discovery call, or the invoice you send, they should have all the information necessary to work with you.  
  • DON'T MISREPRESENT YOURSELF - If you're client asks for cake and you only deliver steak, make it clear to them.  Do not promise what you cannot provide.  To increase sales, it's the American way sometimes to overpromise and under deliver.  This not only can send negative reviews to your business, but it can get you in some tough legal spots as well.  Instead focus on what you do great, even if it's one thing, and sell, sell, sell!!

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LaVonia RossComment