IS the customer always right and how does this matter?

Customer service - the often-forgotten truth

My belief is that the customer is NOT always right, in spite of the popular saying.

However, the customer always deserves to be treated right. For the customer is the reason for the seller's/supplier's existence,

The problem of customer service is that organisations and their people frequently seem to forget that the customer is the reason for their existence and treat the customer as a problem, as an interruption to their work, as an inconvenience.

People in an organisation need to understand that the customer is not an interruption, the customer is the reason for their existence!

And the reason for this is that organisations frequently grow from relatively small teams of people dedicated to providing a particular product or service, to large, highly-structured and tightly controlled systems whose main focus is maintaining the structure rather than serving the "inconvenient" customer or client.

In the plethora of regulations and Standard Operating Procedures the client is forgotten and often simply ignored, or treated like a gate-crasher at a party, an unwelcome guest.

Organisations need to structure themselves in such a way that every employee is fully aware of their role in meeting or exceeding customers' needs, because it is only in so doing that the long-term viability of the organisation can be ensured.

Every person in the organisation should be working to ensure that at the end of the service delivery path is a delighted customer who will, because of the good experience they have had, come back time and again to the organisation to get their needs met.

So why do I say that the customer is not always right? Customers often do not fully understand the product or service they are offered. They do not alwaysseek the service or product from the appropriate organisation. They sometimes treat the customer service person badly.

And that is the crux of the matter - how people are treated is the most important facet of the whole service delivery effort. And it will generally start with the service provider's staff - they need to have all the necessary skills to handle customers in the way customers deserve to be treated; indeed the way all people deserve to be treated - with respect, understanding and involvement. An organisation which appreciates fully the needs of its customers and works to meet or exceed them, will also treat its people well.

An organisation needs to treat its own people as well as it would its most valued customer, for in so doing it will ensure that its customers also get such treatment.

Never let a customer out of your business unhappy, and never let an employee home after work unhappy!

The unhappy customer will only come back to complain - the unhappy employee will not put his or her full commitment to the job.

Copyright Notice

The text and all images on this page, unless otherwise indicated, are by Tony McGregor who hereby asserts his copyright on the material. Should you wish to use any of the text or images feel free to do so with proper attribution and, if possible, a link back to this page. Thank you.

© Tony McGregor 2010

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Comments 38 comments

ProCW profile image

ProCW 8 years ago from South Carolina

I agree. It is of the utmost importance that the business treats its employess/own people well. Doing so gives the employee a good sense of belonging and would benefit the business and the end-customer. Great hub!

ProCW

PS. Thumbs up!


Chairman Matt profile image

Chairman Matt 8 years ago from West Michigan

Very well said, Tony.

One can actually hurt his credibility by appearing to be just an order taker instead of a highly skilled consultant that they sought out just like a dentist or doctor.

CPAs and doctors begin with a list of questions designed to isolate the problem(s), which builds their credibility and helps them get to "know" the customer. This is also a great way to weed out the problem prospects to avoid confrontations with customers.


KDorfman profile image

KDorfman 7 years ago from Pacific Northwest

Indeed, you are right sir. The Customer is not always right, and sometimes is just plain wrong, but the correct service to them since they are the reason for a business' existence is always the right thing to do. Absolutely.


compu-smart profile image

compu-smart 7 years ago from London UK

If im the customer then yes, the customer is always right! if im the shop keeper, then no!!

:)


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 7 years ago from Texas

Very good points. Having done a lot of customer service myself, I can say that when you not only practice, but believe in good customer service skills, your day (as the customer service rep) goes more smoothly, and you can be happier with your job.


needful things profile image

needful things 7 years ago from Poland

I agree with compu-smart... but based on my experience as waiter in a restaurant... we were trained that the customer is always right sometimes...


GeneriqueMedia profile image

GeneriqueMedia 7 years ago from Earth

"However, the customer always deserves to be treated right. For the customer is the reason for the seller's/supplier's existence,"

Well spoken, and oh so true. When I'm at work and someone says "Really, you don't have to help me so much," or "thank you for your help!" I generally reply with "No problem, without you I wouldn't have a job. Thank you for shopping with me today."

"I've never gone to college but if I did I'd do all my finals in a resturant..because the customer is always right."-Mitch Hedberg


MikeNV profile image

MikeNV 7 years ago from Henderson, NV

This is actually a good argument for not having giant corporations keeping business sizes small enough to provide service. In America we have Nordstrom's and they treat you according to "customer is right" philosophy. I love the store. They make you feel a certain way. It costs more to absorb the returns, but they also attract a higher end customer who expects a certain level of service. So it works for them.

I don't know if it would work for everyone. I agree customer should always be treated right, even if what they want or say is not right.


Ruby-Alice profile image

Ruby-Alice 6 years ago

In my mind, a Customer is a (possibly unconscious) moment when a person seeks to have his or her humanness acknowledged, if only for a moment, even with the preparedness to pay (purchase). If a business understands/values this opportunity it will always deliver this gift.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Ruby - you are so right. A customer's main need is to be recognised as a human being. Insightful comment, thanks.

Love and peace

Tony


susanlang profile image

susanlang 6 years ago

Hi tonymac04. I think it requires careful attention to the customer's needs. Your right, if you want your business to do well then treating customer's with kindness and respect is key to your success. But, sometimes you just have to say no to an unruly one. Looking at this from all aspects, many people realize money talks and bs walks. As a result, sometimes you have two customer's in a store, the one with the most money will get better treatment. Just keeping it real! Thanks, I like this hub.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Hi Susan - thanks for the visit and the very relevant comment. And I agree that there comes a time when a firm "no" is definitely required. It's how the "no" is delivered that is key!

Thanks again for the kind words.

Love and peace

Tony


Rebecca E. profile image

Rebecca E. 6 years ago from Canada

excellent points-- sometimes the customer isn't right, but needs to be "heard" I used to work in retail and it seemed that if I "listened" to them they would "listen" to my reasons for not having something or other... but excellent well written points here, I can relate toe htem if I can't describe what I mean exactly.

PS, I did try to answer your question on my hub, I think it's what you are looking for.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks for your visit and comment, Rebecca. I appreciate both very much indeed! Thanks for the answer to my question also!

Love and peace

Tony


consultjtr 6 years ago

I agree with you on the role of the customer and how, ultimately, the customer is everyones's reason for being there. I would just like to see an end to this "I have spent money so therefore I am entitled to act like a, well, YOU KNOW" mentality that many seem to take when things aren't going their way. Great hub!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Consult - thanks for the thoughtful comment. I agree that sometimes customers can be pains in the butt, however, they still pay our salaries! They always deserve, like even non-customers, to be treated well! Don't need to be a doormat, though!

Thanks for stopping by.

Love and peace

Tony


gqgirl profile image

gqgirl 6 years ago from Georgia

Loved reading this! I work as a waitress and was just venting about customer service in my newest hub! lol Check it out http://hubpages.com/business/Working-in-Customer-S...


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks for the comment gqgirl. Hopping over to your Hub now to read it!

Love and peace

Tony


mulberry1 profile image

mulberry1 6 years ago

So many good points here! I agree that the customer isn't always right. AND I also agree that there is a need to remember that the customer is the reason for the existence of the business.

I will try to keep a long story short but...I went shoe shopping with my 80 year old mother. We browsed a few aisles and overheard two sales people complaining about us and one other customer in the store at the time. They told us they were busy and couldn't assist us. When the other customer asked to check out (buy a pair of shoes) they complained even louder, stating that if the customers would stop bothering them they could get their work done!!! I said something about I would think they could at least check the lady out, and she rolled her eyes at me. I asked for the manager, but unfortunately the other complaining employee was the manager.

Anyway, this is the first topic I've encountered that we've both discussed in one way or another. I wrote a hub on Handling Complaints.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Hi Christine - what a horrible customer service experience! I know that these things happen, though. I have encountered similar things. I think they usually happen when the organisation doesn't treat its employees, of whatever level, properly. People who feel resentful or hurt by the way their organisation treats them are unlikely to be able to treat customers well.

Thanks for sharing your experience which I hope you will not have experience again!

Love and peace

Tony


retaildeath profile image

retaildeath 6 years ago from Hiding in the back room

I enjoyed the hub, but I must say, I disagree on some points, or at least with the spirit of them. It is true that customers are the lifeblood of any business, and should always be treated well. However, in certain businesses -- particularly big box retail style chains with hundreds or thousands of customers daily -- the fact is you're just going to get, every now and then, a customer who the business would be better off without. There are customers who know how powerful the "customer is always right" adage is with corporations, and will exploit it to their advantage. They demand deep discounts, scream at the store's employees until they get their way, and fail to treat ANYONE around them with the kind of respect they feel they deserve themselves. And while the initial approach to such a customer should, of course, be pleasant and kind, when an individual proves unreasonable, it's time to cut your losses and ask them to leave.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Retaildeath - Difficult people are difficult people, there is no doubt. We still need to understand that the customer pays our salaries at the end of the day. So however nasty they are we need to treat them with understganding. After all, a person being nasty is usually a person with a poor self-esteem. So making them feel worse will only worsen the sitution further. But they remain pains in the backside, no doubt. That is why good management is so critical to customer service. Without support from management the person on the front line of service is soon going to give up and hit back at nasty customers.

Thanks for visiting and commenting.

Love and peace

Tony


Dchosen_01 6 years ago

Great article. From experience, seriously speaking, some customers could be very very very annoying, but what can you do? As you rightly said, they are your reason of existence, and no matter what, I think the customer service is the bedrock of every organization, be it large or small, no matter how powerful and efficient they may be.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Indeed it is, my friend! Thanks so much for coming by and commenting.

Love and peace

Tony


Petra Vlah profile image

Petra Vlah 6 years ago from Los Angeles

A customer is always right even when she/he may be wrong. As you pointed out, without customers business can't survive and customer service is a Must.

A disatisfyed customer will tell their bad experience to at least 17 people (according to statistics), so most business could not afford that type of publicity. It cost less to accommodate even an absurd demand than to lose a customer. I will be linking this hub to one or more of my hubs dealing with customers satisfaction.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Petra - thank you so much. I really appreciate your visit and the links

Love and peace

Tony


Springboard profile image

Springboard 5 years ago from Wisconsin

Tony, this goes to a larger dynamic that permeates much of society. That is; people do not truly understand the nature of their earnings. Even in factories I often heard workers claim, "Regardless of whether this gets done, I'm still getting paid." Enter buzzer here. WRONG! I don't know how many times I felt the need to be reminding of the idea that if we produce, the company makes money, and we get paid. If we don't produce, the company loses money, and they start making cuts. It may not affect our job and our livelihood in the short term, but the less we focus on the SOURCE of the very money we are ultimately earning, the weaker our positions become in the end.

Customer service is like that as well. The customer IS the bread and butter. And I'll say this as well. ESPECIALLY in an economy where money is tighter, people will make more decisions on how and where their money is spent.

Case in point; yesterday my wife and I bought an exercise bike at Sears. We spent $250. Not anything fancy, of course, at that price. But the bike did not come with a power cord. That was a separate $20. I asked if the guy could throw the power cord in? The guy said no. I asked, "Could you discount it?" Again no. I told the guy, "Fine, I'll buy a power cord somewhere else." The point is, the company would rather lose a discounted sale...my offer was still better than zero. And I had also just spent $250. I WASN'T going to simply give in either. Sears lost my sale, period. I bought the power cord at Best Buy for $15.

For me, customer service is paramount, and as a customer, I WILL hold the companies I patronize hard and to the fire.

Every dollar we spend casts a vote for the kind of world we want. I want a world where I matter as a customer.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Springboard - thanks for stopping by and I agree with you totally on this. A very thoughtful comment which is a great amplification of the Hub. Thanks again

Love and peace

Tony


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 5 years ago

You know you're right Bud! God bless you tonyMac BrotherMan!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Micky - my brother! Thanks so much and God bless you too!

Love and peace

Tony


sampsondog profile image

sampsondog 5 years ago

tell me what to know about star wars

and I will tell you .

love and peace

sampson


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Sampson - thank you, I will!

Love and peace

Tony


Mrs. J. B. profile image

Mrs. J. B. 5 years ago from Southern California

I too agree that the customer is NOT always right. After dealing with the public for 33 years, I can say first hand NO without batting an eye. My question is for anyone... What kind of customer are you?


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Mrs. J.B. - thanks for stopping by. I agree that we need, as customers, also to be aware of how to behave decently!

Love and peace

Tony


swedal profile image

swedal 5 years ago from Colorado

The customer is not always right, however it never pays off to argue with them about it. If the customer is wrong one can quickly get to the bottom if it through a series of questions to the client whereby the client can generally figure it out on their own.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Swedal - thanks for stopping by. Your comment makes a lot of sense.

Love and peace

Tony


nifty@50 profile image

nifty@50 5 years ago

In a restaurant that we frequent, there was a loud abusive customer that was very demanding. When he was paying his bill the manager pointed out his mistreatment of the staff and how he didn't even leave a tip. He was politely asked to never return. I thought to myself, that is a manager I could work for! Great hub tonymac04! Sometimes the customer is dead wrong!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Nifty - an excellent example. Thanks for sharing it here and adding to the meaning of this Hub. Much appreciated.

Love and peace

Tony

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