The Customer is Always Right?

It may come as a surprise that this topic is not a statement but a question. After all ‘customer is prime’, the ‘life-blood of a company’ and many such commonly used terms seem to suggest that the customer is always right. These concepts emphasize on the customer and how it is vital to put their needs and expectations first and over all else in a business. They also seem to suggest that disagreeing with customers can in no way be right and customer satisfaction and delight are the golden rules for any business to survive. Making the customer’s needs the top priority must be top priority for a company since without them the business cannot survive and there is no business to start with if there are no customers. This entails not just providing top class customer service but also offering products and services that are unique and distinct making your company stand out from the crowd. Reaching out, engaging with and pro-actively knowing what the customer needs all make great business sense and are ways to keep customers happy, profitable and loyal.

Having said all the above, the customer is always right is a redundant concept and ‘the customer is always right?’ makes more sense. The attempt to keep all customers happy all the time is not a realistic goal any more what with so much competition, new communication channels and the plethora of options out there for customers. Being fixated on this concept can actually have some unfavourable effects on the company and its employees. A number of businesses are forsaking this concept that the customer is always right and have a variety of reasons to do so.

– We discussed earlier that not customers are equal and some can actually be detrimental for a company’s business and brand. Such customers must be removed from your business since they might actually be costing you resources and money to keep. Studies suggest that only 20% of your customers are responsible for at least 80% of business and so these 20% are the ones to keep. For the remaining percentage of customers, businesses must evaluate which ones to retain and which to get rid of. Bad customers are the ones that cost your company money to keep, don’t really make any money for you, default on payments, are rude and abrasive with your employees, constantly complain and quibble over everything and constantly need to be managed and cajoled. These are the customers that your business and employees will be much better off without and you should sever ties with these.

– Great customer service happens when the employees are treated well and are happy doing their job. They are the ones who can build customer loyalty and need to work really hard to sustain cordial relationships with customers even under stressful circumstances. Of course, customers must be kept happy but not at the cost of your employees. The converse is also true and hence companies must be able to maintain a fine balance between the two. Employees must be treated with respect and as valuable members of the organization. While it may be expected from them, even when a customer is making a complete nuisance to the point of being rude, that they remain polite and calm, it is equally important that the company makes a choice wisely. Ensure that the employees are treated fairly and the errant customer managed professionally. If you hold on to the customer is always right, the message your employees get is that whatever they do, even if it is what they been asked to do, will be considered wrong. They would feel mistrusted and also be convinced that you would never take up for them. In time they would come to distrust you which will serve to build up friction and dissent. Your employees are not servants and if they feel that they have not been treated fairly it can result in widespread resentment and be cause for mass attrition

– Your reputation of rolling out the red carpet for your customers could be taken advantage of by some customers. And it wouldn’t be there fault – you are saying indirectly that the customer is always right and it is human tendency to keep situations in their favour. We said in an earlier exposition that saying no to customers is often necessary and companies must know where to draw the line. The abusive and ‘high-maintenance’ customers might be habituated to making unreasonable demands because you have been giving in to them and if you continue to do so, they have no reason not to use it to their advantage. Not only is this unfair to your employees, it is a gross injustice to those customers who not only contribute to the growth of your company but are also pleasant, polite and understanding. It is completely agreeable to treat your customers well, but it is equally important to know that it is not true that the customer is always right.

– Having ‘the customer is always right’ as your company’s mantra, gives uncompromising and brusque customers an unmerited advantage. The truth is that by saying that the customer is always right, your company is providing them the leeway to demand anything and in any manner. It makes it much harder for your business and employees to keep such customers in check. And because they are so difficult, it often leads companies to pay more attention to them and provide them with benefits that even the ‘nice’ customers don’t get. This as a business concept is just so wrong and it would be better to focus your business’ energy and potential of your employees in treating the nice people better so that they provide repeat business and also attract more nice customers for you.

Most companies want to provide customers with an exceptional level of care since that is the best method to gain customers, keep customers, secure repeat business from them and get them to attract more business by being your brand’s advocates. And even if the customer is always right rings true often, it is not always accurate or true. The line that companies must draw would be between your company’s values and the customer’s values and behaviours. Your company must consider these values when deciding whether the customer is right or not and whether doing business with them is good for your company and will uphold whatever your company intends to stand for.

The customer is always right, but not when their ‘rightness’ is in direct conflict with the core values of your company. A customer is not right when it places them in an unfair advantageous position to exploit you financially and harass your employees. They also are not right when they resort to bullying, abusing and being demeaning of your company and its employees. There is no basis to say that the customer is always right but the golden rule is that all customers must be treated right and fairly. This is the difference and the line that companies must draw. Don’t treat any customer badly since there is no dearth of choices any more but despite all the support, keeping up with demands and courtesy fails to impress them, tell them respectfully that doing business with them is no longer possible. Are you still asking is ‘the customer is always right?’

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