Why ‘The Customer Is Always Right’ Isn’t the Right Way

Perhaps one of the most clichéd of business axioms, ‘The Customer Is Always Right’ is not only bad for companies, it’s bad for customers.

Whether you are a service provider, value-added reseller, distributor or manufacturer, your customers are not operating the same type of company – which by definition should mean that you know more about the intricacies and details than they do. This creates an OPPORTUNITY for you to add value through service by advising them of alternatives when they ask for a product / service that may not be the best fit. A ‘Customer Is Always Right’ company will simply reply ‘right away!’ to any request regardless of how ill advised, and worse, think that is an example of good service.

Becoming a trusted resource for your customers is far more valuable than pandering to them, and creates a much longer-term relationship.

Another by-product of this philosophy is it WILL make for unhappy employees. Not only does it devalue the knowledge and experience your employees bring to the table, essentially denying them the ability to steer customers down the right path, it also promotes unreasonable customer expectations. No one likes to be beat up on or devalued and this approach promotes both. When employees are unhappy, it’s virtually impossible to provide excellent service – at best they will provide fake good service… and be miserable.

Value your employees above all else and they will reward you (and your customers) with truly exceptional service.

Finally, a ‘Customer Is Always Right’ mentality can sabotage your business and your bottom-line. Some customers are just bad business and the ability to recognize that, draw some lines, and be willing to walk away can make a significant difference to your company, your employees, and even to your other customers. While a financial case can be made about the amount of time, resources, credits and returns, and overall profitability of a bad customer, it really comes down to dignity and respect. If a customer isn’t treating your employees with basic respect, or doesn’t recognize the value that you provide them, it’s better to walk away.

Don’t sell your dignity – it has far reaching implications both within your organization as well as the market in general and you’ll never be paid enough for it.

Good companies know this isn’t about telling a customer that they are wrong, it’s about helping them be better. It’s not about giving service personnel free reign to refuse customers, it’s about knowing that when push comes to shove you are on their side. It’s not about ‘tough negotiation’, it’s about knowing your value and delivering on it at a fair price. Good companies build relationships. Companies that adopt ‘The Customer Is Always Right’ are implicitly stating that the only thing that matters to them is the sale.