“The customer is always right,” is the most popular and perhaps the most abused quote in the business world.
This saying, which started decades ago, was credited to Harry Gordon Selfridge. Is this prosperous business right?
Well, whatever the answer may be, I think the customer isn’t always right. This might be controversial, but the customer cannot be right in every situation.
Growing up, I saw problematic displays of this mindset in movies. There were several instances in Nollywood movies of customers being in the wrong and business owners still tried to appease them. An example is a critically acclaimed movie, King of Boys, by Kemi Adetiba. In the last scene of the movie, a male customer was seen harassing a female attendant and when she reacted angrily, he got angry and still ended up being pacified by the business owner. A smack on the waitress’ buttocks here and manhandling of a shop attendant there are scenarios that permeate Nigerian movies and translate to reality.
Recently, the story of the black Amazon delivery drivers, who were fired for being rude to a customer, trended on the world stage, with mixed reactions over whether Amazon was justified in firing them, considering that the white customer was reportedly racist and abusive to the drivers, which prompted their ‘rude’ behaviour.
So even in instances like this, does the saying that “the customer is always right” still apply?
I personally believe that, in this modern world, businesses should have abandoned or at least rephrased this cliché because it doesn’t represent what most people think it means.
However, as someone in the service industry, you owe your clients the best, whether they perceive it as right or not. It’s your job to make them see reason. Often, customers think they know better and try to dictate how things should be done and they might just be damn wrong. Irrespective of the sector of the business, it is not good to let customers think they are right when they are wrong. Sometimes, business owners cling to this saying to give lousy service and not to go the extra mile for their customers.
Good customer service is diplomatically letting customers know when they are wrong and that you know the service or good you’re offering better than they. Explaining details about the goods and services will help you pass your point across to customers and let them acknowledge your expertise.
The second point to look at is, if you own a business, the customer isn’t the backbone of your business; but your employees are. Employees can make or mar your business. Hence, the reason it’s important to keep them happy and satisfied.
Some customers can be quite nasty, disrespectful or just inappropriate to your employees. There have been cases of male customers harassing female employees, white customers being racist to black employees and so on. So, automatically assuming that the customer is right may not be justifiable in such instances. Every situation must be viewed objectively to make sure your employees feel valued. Siding with the customer every time, regardless of what the truth is, only serves to excite resentment in your employees.
Another fact is that not all customers are worth keeping. There are some difficult customers who can’t be satisfied and would be abusive to employees. The cliché asserts they are right, but they only make things more difficult for you as a business owner.
It isn’t fair to give excellent treatment to people who don’t return that courtesy. Respect, they say, is reciprocal. Customers must be made to understand that although they are important, they are dispensable. Creating a safe work environment for other nice customers and your employees is more vital.
While the saying might have served a purpose at first, all it does is to demotivate employees, empower offensive customers and create a toxic experience for other customers. Instead,business owners should focus on making sure there’s a balance because when all is said and done, excellent customer service is also very important to the success of a business.
Customers should be treated with the respect they deserve.Employees and business owners must make sure customers have a good experience, but not at the expense of maintaining a safe and good environment for the staff and deserving customers.
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