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Mike Gorun

Mike Gorun Managing Partner/CEO

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Is the Customer Still Always Right?

 

The customer is always right.” was coined and made famous by retailers including Selfridges and Marshall Field’s (now Macy’s) around the turn of the 20th century. It’s a phrase that most of our parents and grandparents had ingrained into their brains as children, and yet it somehow appears to have been lost in translation among the generations – and businesses – born within the last 20 to 30 years.

We are all human and we all make mistakes – businesses and customers alike, but if you want to strengthen the relationships you have with your customers and keep them loyal, then knowing exactly who is right and who is wrong doesn’t matter in most situations. The important thing to focus on is that the customer always deserves to be treated right and with a professional respect and courtesy.

As a business, you must decide where that line is going to be drawn, and then be consistent. When a customer crosses the “unacceptable behavior” line, your concern should not be for the customer so much as for your employee and your business. The Customer Service Point article explains that “when a customer actually does cross the line, you can tell them that you no longer want their business. And at that point, they cease to have the right to be right.

“The customer is always right. But not all customers need to stay customers.”

 

Do you think the saying, “The customer is always right” is still important for businesses today? Why? Why not?

Source: Excerpted from DrivingRetention.com and The Customer Service Point, February 2012.

 

 

Chris Costner
Great post Mike. I think the "customer is always right" should read "the customer's perception is always right." Would you see that second statement as more true? I think either statement is true and even more so today with all the channels they are able to communicate their opinions to others which can have a positive or negative impact. Businesses should know where to draw the line however and I agree with your statement 100%. Sometimes there is just a bad apple and understanding that is key. What did you really lose by turning away their business?
Brady Irvine
"The customers perception is always right"? That is BRILLIANT. If a customer says you didn't show them something and you say you did, what is the point of defending yourself or arguing? You know you told them and they weren't listening, but if they don't know what they needed to know it doesn't matter does it?
Mike Gorun
Chris, I agree... but it's more than simply the customers' perception, I think. It's important that when we're interacting with our customers, we make sure that they walk away feeling that they were more important to us as individuals than as dollar signs. Don't get me wrong, dollar signs are important to any business. But when we make a positive customer experience our #1 priority, the dollar signs are sure to follow. So in that sense, whether it is merely perception on the customers' part or we are flat-out wrong, we still need to go out of our way to ensure they don't walk away feeling wronged. And there are too many companies out there that just don't care how their customers feel when they're walking away.
Mike Gorun
Agreed, Brady. When it comes right down to it, if you want to maintain the customer as a customer, it doesn't matter who is wrong or who is right.
Jessi Hales
I've learned through a lot of personal experience that a lot of times those "bad apples" just need to be heard. I have sat with my headset on mute, listening to someone explain - usually quite heatedly - exactly how we messed up as a company. I think consistency in how we treat those we've deemed "bad apples" is essential. We need to train our employees exactly where that threshold is and how we respond when it's crossed. Do we escalate the situation to a manager? Do we politely request that they individual call back or return when they've had a chance to calm down? And if it comes down to it, when do we call security? The way that we handle the "bad apples" can do as much or more (both good and bad) for our customers' sense of loyalty than the way we treat the customers that love us no matter what.

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