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Is the Customer Always Right?

White Woman Smiling holding a yellow telephone
Photo by Vinicius Amano

In business, one of the main mantras in customer service is, "The customer is always right."

I believe the intent in promoting this slogan is to impact service providers with the integral importance customers are to businesses (no customer, no sales, no revenue, no profit) even to the extent of concluding customers are always right.

But there is a slippery slope of saying, "The customer is always right." It can cultivate a culture of expectations of perfection when both customers and the companies that serve them are made of imperfect human beings.

Therefore, imperfections on both parties eliminate the customer always being right.

As a result, this type of culture implies a, "You owe me," notion not only in customer service department(s) but in the overall business model.

Furthermore, this can create a pressure that trickles down to personnel to, "Deliver or else."

Sometimes as customers, we forget that business is run by everyday people like ourselves diminishing all (or at least minimizing) empathy.

So how could the customer be wrong?

Here are some things to implore:

  1. They misread company policy (or didn't read it all) but agreed to the policy and terms.

  2. Mis-quoted information about your company from a referral (outside the company).

  3. Not aware of local or federal laws that govern the business (when a customer feels the business should be run in a different manner).

What Does This Mean as a Business?

  1. Your customers are not always right, but they are still and will always be the most important part of your business: this is non-negotiable.

  2. Therefore, engaging your customers, communicating to your customers and offering as much information as possible about your business is vital to minimize disconnect.

  3. Understand and get clear about who your customers are by establishing key buyer personas. This will allow you to align your business processes with key customer norms and preferences.

What this Doesn't Mean as a Business?

  1. You lack empathy and don't meet customers where are they when there is a clear disconnect.

  2. Discounts (cost considerations) is null and void when the customer may have misunderstood terms and conditions.

  3. Not delivering the best possible product and/or service to your customers. Being lazy and non-responsive to excellence to your customer is unacceptable. Excellent service is non-negotiable.

All in all, business is a world of service providers to customers who are all made up of imperfect human beings; nonetheless, that gives no excuse for delivering great service nor an expectation as a customer to think they have misunderstood how a business meets their need in the marketplace.

So tell me what you think, is the customer always right?


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