A Close Look At This Longstanding Debate
“Right or wrong, the customer is always right.” Marshall Field
If you are to “Google” the term The Customer Is Always Right you will discover people on each side of this debate.
The slogan was used in the late 1800’s into the early 1900’s and generally associated with Marshall Field who was an entrepreneur and founded Marshall Field and Company which was a Chicago department store chain.
While Marshall’s slogan drew many customers, in time there was strong displeasure with this slogan because customers realized they could take advantage of this slogan by using or wearing purchased items and after misuse, take it back and get refunds or another item.
The Other Side Of The Equation
While the issue of customers taking advantage, the other side of the coin has some businesses taking advantages of the customer.
Customers and clients have the ability to boycott and post negative reviews on businesses. People such as Marshall Field understood this and created this system to stay in “good graces” with clientele.
So I am going to show both sides of the coin and at the end of this post, I will offer my opinion on how we should treat this issue.
Some Reasons The Customer Is Not Always Right
These are some reasons that many business owners stand by in their belief that the customer or client is not always right:
- If you say the customer is always right, you are often saying an employee is wrong. When you use the customer is always right strategy, you can create animosity within employees. After all, by saying the customer is right, you are often saying the employee is wrong.
- There are some customers a business really doesn’t need. Some customers or clients take such huge advantages of the “I am right” system, they are actually costing the business large amounts of money.
- The customer is normally not an expert. Let’s face it, many customers may pretend they are an expert in the area of the item or service they are purchasing, but in 98% of the cases, they have no clue. And actual experts usually will not be problem customers.
- You will have poor customer service. If your customer service always knows you will side with the customer, the service will be worse. It is inevitable.
Some Reasons The Customer Is Always Right
And that other side of the fence says:
- You don’t have a business if you don’t have customers. Many advocates of the customer is always right strategy claim that even when a few take advantage, the majority won’t and overall you gain more revenues.
- One upset customer can cause utter chaos to a business structure. Recently, a gentleman was pulled brutally off a certain airline flight. Videos have went viral and it has cost that airline revenues and reputation.
Is The Customer Or Client Always Right?
I believe in a “middle of the road” approach. It all comes down to proper judgment. There are going to be those moments when the client or customer is right and other times when the entrepreneur or business is right.
To be perfectly honest, it amazes me that this comes down to a debate.
There will be mistakes made by businesses and there will be customers or clients who attempt to manipulate the system. Training is the answer. Putting the proper people in customer service positions is the key. These people need to be able to make solid judgment calls and use a polite method even when they have to go against the customer’s wishes.
Here are a few good tips:
- Have a written customer service policy that covers everything.
- Have a system that supports customer service. If there is a question, the person needs to have the means of getting an answer fast.
- Learn from customers…their needs and the issues they have had. Keep changing for the better.
- Learn that the majority of customers just want to be attended to and to be treated as individuals.
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Treat Customers With Respect But Be Solid With Your Convictions
There is an old statement that says respect demands respect. In this case, I believe that even if a customer is disrespecting you, you still must respect them. But respect does not mean just giving the customer or client what they want every time. It really is a simple process but too many people make it difficult.
If you even assume that your business made a mistake, make it right. If you know that your business has provided everything the customer paid for and you know deep down that they are just trying to get more for free; the answer is sorry, but no!
Yes, you may lose that customer but did you really need that customer?
The whole process just comes down to 2 simple words… Common Sense.
I hope that this post gave you some insight. Again I will say, if you even have an inkling of thought that the customer is right, make it right to them. It is that easy.
And, be sure and follow up with the customer to make sure you solved the problem.
So do you have any examples of a time when deciding if the customer was right was difficult? Please share your stories below and I will attempt to explain how I would cover the situation.
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