The Customer is NOT Always Right

Have you ever heard the old adage “The customer is always right.”? This phrase has been implemented in most areas of customer service and is usually used as a way to ensure the customer leaves happy. I am probably one of the most customer service orientated people you will meet; However, I don’t believe the customer always have to be right, but they have the right to be treated with respect.

I have worked in Customer service for many years now, and have witnessed my share of customer encounters. 98% of those encounters were legitimate issues we could work on and improve. Every once in a while, you’d get one or two of those customers who no matter how hard you tried — -nothing you could say or do would help the situation. Forbes posted a great article, on how to deal with angry customers. I have taken this advice to heart over the years for a good reason. It works. But, you can try your best and still have no luck.

Alexander Kjerulf wrote an article on the premise that ‘The Customer is Always Right’ mantra can be damaging to businesses. According to Kjerulf, “When this attitude prevails, employees stop caring about service. At that point, real, good service is almost impossible — the best customers can hope for is fake good service. You know the kind I mean: courteous on the surface only.”

I can see in many ways how this could be true. I saw many coworkers quit because they never felt supported in those kinds of situations. A customer would verbal abuse them, call them an idiot and literally throw something at them. I witnessed more than one of my coworkers run off the floor crying because a customer was verbally abusing them and they didn’t know how to handle it. In turn, the management would apologize to the customer for the inconvenience and give them a free drink on the house.

Customers like that are bad for business. They make the environment hostile, for not only the employees, but also for the other customers. They give other customers the idea that a customer is entitled to act that way. A good manager needs to step up to the plate and let people know that that is not okay, and that the customer is never right in that situation.

In order to maintain great customer service, your employees should feel valued, supported and respected. When your employees feel that way, they will treat the customer the same way. Now, I am not saying that if a customer is rude, that that an employee should be rude back to them. I do believe that those in customer service should not be open targets to abuse and that sometimes you need to let customers know that that mistreatment of employees will not be tolerated.

Starbucks changed their ‘Customer is always right’ mantra to ‘Make the moment right.’ I hold to Starbucks’ standard of ‘Make the moment right.’ That means to make the moment right not only for the customer, but also to the employee. Whether that is working with the customer to make sure their problem is addressed or standing up to support your employee who is being verbally abused by an irate customer, the customer is not always right, but we can learn from these situations and show what real customer service truly is: Respect.

What are your thoughts on the topic? What experiences can you share? I’d love to hear them!

References:

G. Ciotti. (2016, June 5). How to talk to your angriest customers [Web log comment]. Retrieved from https://www.helpscout.net/blog/customer-service-tips/
 
 Kjerulf, A. (2006, July 12). TOP 5 REASONS WHY “THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT” IS WRONG. Retrieved September 21, 2016, from http://positivesharing.com/2006/07/why-the-customer-is-always-right-results-in-bad-customer-service/

7 Steps For Dealing With Angry Customers. (2013, August 2nd). Retrieved September 21, 2016, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/thesba/2013/08/02/7-steps-for-dealing-with-angry-customers/#15e6da0328ad

Media references:

Graphic of angry customer retrieved from: http://blog.customerlobby.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/angry-person.png

Graphic of money retrieved from: http://medsnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/6355836713_7ea15f733f_b-777x437.jpg