A common business refrain is that the customer is always right.
And we’ve all heard stories of companies and employees going to ridiculous lengths to meet customer needs.
But what if the customer isn’t always right? Are there times when it’s better to tell the customer that they’re wrong?
In fact, treating the customers like they are always right can actually be harmful to your business. It can dampen employee morale, use up vital resources, and even hurt your best customers.
Don’t believe me?
Here are 7 reasons why your customers are NOT always right.
Reason #1: Because You Have Limited Resources
You and your employees have limited resources. You have limited time, money, energy, and even patience. The ugly truth is there are some customers who will never be satisfied, no matter how far you bend over. No matter how much time you dedicate, these customers will still be unhappy with what you provide.
If you’ve done your best to address their issues, you shouldn’t feel guilty about moving on. In fact, it’s your responsibility to keep going. Your business does not exist solely for that customer. You also meet the needs of hundreds of other customers, as well as support your employees. It’s actually irresponsible to continue pouring yourself into one customer at the expense of other people.
Not all customers deserve your company’s best efforts. And despite what the old adage says, the customer is most definitely not always right. Because in the world of customer centricity, there are good customers…and then there is everybody else.
Reason #2: It Makes Your Employees Miserable
There will always be nasty, abrasive, grumpy customers, especially if your business serves a large number of people. If you deal with 100 customers per week, there’s a good chance that ten of them will have woken up on the wrong side of the bed.
Now, you certainly don’t want to respond like the “Soup Nazi” from Seinfeld.
But if you tell your employees to treat the customer like they’re always right, you’ll make the employees miserable. When it comes down to supporting your employees or supporting an insufferable, irate customer, you want to support your employees. You want customers to know that, while you value them, you won’t let them abuse your employees.
Yes, there will occasionally be times when your employees may mistreat a customer. But the solution isn’t to declare that the customer is always right. The solution is to support your employees with proper training.
And, the more you support your employees, the better customer service they’ll provide to your other customers. As a general rule, unhappy employees provide poor customer service, while happy employees are more than willing to go the extra mile.
Supporting your employees pays dividends.
Reason #3: The Customer Isn’t The Expert
Who knows your product or service best? You and your employees. There will be times when a customer thinks they are the expert. When they assume that something is supposed to work a certain way. When they presume to know how to run your business.
This can reach ludicrous proportions. The man who is upset that his mobile phone won’t also work as a laser gun. The woman who is frustrated that her car won’t drive autonomously. The child who is angry that the pet shelter doesn’t have a monkey.
Of course, this can happen on a much smaller scale as well. When a customer is frustrated because your product doesn’t do exactly what they thought it did. Or when the customer destroyed your product by using it improperly.
Depending on your industry, it can actually be dangerous to let the customer think they’re always right.
Rather than acting like the customer is always right, a better solution is to treat your customers like you are the expert. Obviously, don’t do this in an obnoxious or arrogant way, but in a helpful way. Help them understand the best ways to utilize your product or service. Help them see that your product or service is to be employed in a particular way.
This will keep you from going crazy and result in happier customers.
Reason #4: It Pits Management and Customers Against The Employees
When you inform your employees that the customer is always right, it pits the employees against the customers, with the customers always coming out on top. This creates problems on multiple levels.
- It undermines the authority and control of the employees.
- It often causes employee resentment against managers.
- It signals that management supports customers more than employees.
- It shows a lack of trust that employees can appropriately resolve difficult situations.
The reality is, supporting your employees will lead to happier customers. Alexander Kjerulf writes:
Believing the customer is always right is a subconscious way of favouring the customer over the employee which can lead to resentment among employees. When managers put the employees first, the employees will then put the customers first. Put employees first and they will be happy at work.
Reason #5: You Don’t Want Every Customer
Believe it or not, there are some customers you DON’T want. If a customer constantly complains, abuses employees, or creates stress for your company, they’re not worth it. It doesn’t matter how much money they pay.
A bad customer:
- Erodes employee morale
- Requires an unusually high amount of resources
- Increases employee stress levels
- And more
There may be times when you have to “fire” a customer in order to protect your company and employees. If you’re planning on staying in business for the long haul, you need to avoid terrible customers.
Dropping bad customers may cost you a little revenue in the short term, but it’s better in the long term for your business.
Reason #6: The Customer Wants To Maintain The Norm
Any time a business makes changes, they will receive backlash from customers, even if these are good changes in the long run. When Toblerone changed the shape of their iconic chocolate bars, customers went absolutely bananas. It wasn’t that the new shape of the bars was bad, per se. It was just different, and people HATE different.
Customers like to maintain the norm. If you make changes in your business, you will probably get some initial backlash, even if the change is for the better. If you have the attitude that the customer is always right, you’ll never make healthy improvements to your business because. The possibility of bad customer feedback will paralyze you.
All entrepreneurs should be focused on ways to improve their business, their productivity, and their service, if only because stagnation is the enemy of business growth. Quite often, changes in the status quo feel inconvenient to customers, even if they will be beneficial in the long run.
Reason #7: Bad Customers Create Bad Experiences For Others
Unhappy, irate, grumpy customers not only cause bad experiences for employees, they also make other customers miserable.
We’ve all had the experience of being in a store when another customer flies off the handle. They cuss and scream and stomp around. Everyone feels uncomfortable and wants to get out of the store as soon as possible. No one enjoys being in that kind of situation.
If you constantly put up with angry, irate customers, you’re creating bad experiences for your more loyal customers. You’re allowing unpleasant, stressful situations to regularly affect your more important customers.
These customers simply aren’t right, and your employees should have the authority to deal with them appropriately.
It goes without saying that you and your employees should strive for excellent customer service. You should make an effort to keep your customers happy and to meet their needs.
But if you adopt, “The customer is always right,” policy, you can end up actually hurting your business. You kill employee morale, empower rude customers, slow down innovation, and even create unhappy experiences for other customers.
A much better approach is to empower your employees to make the right decisions. Encourage them to go the extra mile with customers without also enabling rude customers to take over.