5 Reasons Why the Customer Is Always Right Is Wrong: My Response
Reading a post at Positive Sharing blog titled, 5 Reasons Why The Customer Is Always Right Is Wrong, brought to mind for me some history of businesses’ approaches to their customers. I have a different idea about creating positive change when needed, between employees and customers.
In 1909, American business man Gordon Selfridge opened his Selfridge Department Store in London with the idea that shopping wasn’t just something people should do when they have to do it, but because they might want to do it if they enjoyed doing it enough.
The business logic was inescapable. The more a customer enjoyed the shopping experience, the longer they might do it, and the more they might purchase. With the pleasure of shopping as the means to this end, he designed his store to be user friendly, attractive and welcoming. He staffed his store with people whose purpose was to offer assistance, not sell products.
He took an advertising phrase then in use by the Ritz Hotel in London, the customer is never wrong, and turned it around to say, proactively and positively, that the customer is always right. The phrase, and the idea it stood for, soon found its way back to the US where it caught on as an advertising slogan meant to give customers the idea that their business would be welcome and they would be treated right in exchange for it.
There are at least two very good reasons to account for the widespread adoption of the Harry Selfridge business directive that “the customer is always right.” First, we’re all somebody’s customer, and we all want to be treated well. It’s a great comfort to be able to tell oneself, in the presence of bad service and unhappy service reps that “They ought to treat me better, I’m right about this! And without me, they’re going to go out of business!”
Which brings me to a second and more compelling reason to pay attention to customers as if they are always right:
- It’s because the customer has power. The power to walk away.
- The power to takes others away, through word of mouth.
- And in the case of the public sector, the power to stick around, become a crank, make life difficult.
When you look at the source of bad customer behavior, you almost always find an event or incident in which the customer felt dissed, dismissed, or disrespected. And while it may be true that as many as 10% of unhappy customers are just unhappy no matter what, they become a true testing ground for service representatives to develop their skills, their stamina, and their service ethic.
The option remains in any business to say “We’re sorry you’re not happy. We wish you well,” admit the relationship isn’t working and then refer them to a competitor. And no doubt that Herb Kelleher did this well, when he wrote to the chronically dissatisfied customer of his Southwest Airline, that ‘Dear Mrs. Crabapple, We will miss you. Love, Herb.’”
But at the end of the day, this ought to be your last line of defense, not the first resort. When all else fails, you have this inevitable fall back position. I think it’s better to fall forward (learn everything you can, apply it and keep going!). I’d be concerned that getting rid of unhappy customers by deciding to be right that they’re not right could become the easy way out with difficult consequences. That said, if you were my customer, Alex, I’d let you be right about this.
Because I’d rather find reasons to LOVE MY CUSTOMERS than make excuses for losing them.
You can read his complete blog post here.
Have a wonderful day,