The Top 5 Reasons Why the Client Is Always Right… Is Wrong

By TRISOFT team

In the world of business, it goes without saying that managers and employees strive for excellent customer service, for pleasing clients and, thus, obtaining fame and profit.

However, things were not always so. Before the 19th century, the general rule was the Latin “caveat emptor”, namely “let the buyer beware”, meaning the purchaser assumed the risk that a product would fail to meet his expectations or could even have defects or flaws. Yet in 1909, Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store in London, invented the phrase “The customer is always right”, which was immediately adopted by other businesses and used as a standard. Clients were hence assured they would receive great service at the respective company, and employees were prompted to offer it.

Intentions were good, but things have changed in these last two centuries, and perhaps a reconsideration of this principle would be in order. Let’s examine a few of the reasons why this guideline might have become obsolete or, even worse, harmful.

1. Employees become unhappy

When company owners say “the customer is always right”, they seem to favor the clients and disregard the opinions and expertise of their employees; therefore, the latter feel betrayed and unappreciated. So remember why you hired your people in the first place — they probably share your view of the business, are skilled in this domain and truly want to help people find the right product for them. Maybe once in a while, an employee will have a bad day or lack the motivation to do his job right — in this case, he must be helped and pointed in the right direction, because you know that, ultimately, their heart is in the right place. If you are certain that your employees are doing a terrific job, but a demanding, unreasonable client comes up with ridiculous complaints and problems, you should always side with your people. Just because the client is buying your product, it doesn’t mean you should let him abuse your employees.

2. It results in worse customer service

Employees are probably just doing their best, enforcing rules and observing the guidelines you have set for them. Yet, when unreasonable clients ask more and more from them, and you seem to yield to their demands, employees feel undermined, betrayed, frustrated. They are unhappy with their job and will no longer put in their best efforts into developing the business or meeting requirements. But if you put employees first, they, in turn, will put customers first. Studies show that people who are happy at work perform better: they are more spirited, motivated, inspired, and mindful of customers.

When bosses side with patrons, employees feel like they are not valued, they are not important, their opinion doesn’t matter, they don’t deserve any respect from clients and have to put with everything from them; therefore, genuinely good service is almost impossible, and the best you can hope to attain is a falsely kind service, an employee who is only courteous on the surface, and everything goes downhill from there.

3. Bad customers receive an unfair advantage

Whenever a client feels cheated, unsatisfied or simply angry, he resorts to the ultimate phrase: “I demand to speak to the manager”. He knows the manager will bend over backward to make him happy, sometimes even disregarding what the employee has explained and stretching the rules only to make that person happy.

But where does that leave us, when it comes to unreasonable customers? They feel they can request almost anything, since they are right by definition — it’s the golden rule, right? “The customer is ALWAYS right”. And the worst consequence is that these outrageous, arbitrary clients are often treated better than ordinary ones.

The ugly truth is that some customers will never be satisfied, no matter how far you bend over. Regardless of how much time you dedicate to solving their problems, how many favors you grant them, they will still be unhappy with what you provide. So cut your losses, respect your employees and your other clients and let these people go.

4. Some customers are bad for business

Certain people just wake up on the wrong side of the bed and search for someone they can take their anger out on. They make outrageous demands, frustrate your employees and create a terrible environment for other clients. They shout and throw their arms around when they feel disregarded, criticize incessantly and relentlessly, abuse employees verbally or even physically.

So you must remember that it’s not just about the number of clients — the saying “the more clients, the better” does not apply anymore — but also about their quality. One bad customer can hurt your business and prejudice hundreds of other clients, therefore, instead of undermining good customers or firing good employees, “fire” bad clients. You should understand that it doesn’t even matter if the company makes or loses money in the long run, but it’s a matter of respect and dignity and treating people right. Maybe you don’t truly want every customer.

5. Some clients are just plain wrong

Keep in mind that the client isn’t the expert — you and your employee are. When a customer is unhappy because your product doesn’t do precisely what he thought it would or he has destroyed the product by using it inadequately, help him see what the real problem is and that his demands are unreasonable.

Don’t forget that your resources are limited — time, energy, patience. If you have done your best to solve the problem, don’t feel guilty about moving on. Your business does not exist exclusively for that disgruntled client. You must meet the requirements of many other people as well, and it would be irresponsible of you and your employees to continue pouring your resources into one customer, at the expense of others.

Don’t be afraid to refer clients somewhere else. If they abuse your people or you feel there is nothing more you can do for them, or that a competitor would be better for them, do your reputation a favor — honestly and kindly refer them to someone who can meet their needs or put up with their constant complaints.

All in all…

So guys, we must all understand that some customers are simply wrong or deliberately obtrusive, that businesses are better off without them, and that managers siding with unreasonable clients instead of their own employees is not such a good idea and may result in poor customer service.

At TRISOFT, we strongly believe in the fact that you must make efforts to keep customers happy and satisfy their needs. But we also know that if you adopt the “Customer is always right” policy, you can end up hurting your business, by killing employee morale, empowering rude customers, generating a hostile work environment and even creating terrible experiences for other clients. So we choose equilibrium, we choose to treat clients, partners, and employees with the same amount of elegance and respect. And let’s face it: the customer IS always right, until he’s wrong alright ;)