June 23, 2017
Is The Customer Always Right?
Are the “truths” that we have been taught always accurate? The infamous “THEY” have instilled in us a lot of information over the years. Just listen to how many times you hear yourself, or someone else, say “they say…”
It got me thinking, are “THEY” always right?
Today let’s look at one of the things that “THEY” have taught us about business: the customer is always right. This slogan has been used since the late 1800s, and is generally associated with Marshall Field, an entrepreneur and founder of Marshall Field and Company, a department store chain in Chicago.
The actual quote that I found is, “Right or wrong, the customer is always right,” says Marshall Field. Really?
I googled the saying, “the customer is always right” and discovered that there are people on both sides of this debate.
While Field’s slogan attracted many customers, there was a downside to this mantra. Some customers realized that they could take advantage of this policy by using or wearing purchased items and after misuse, taking them back for a refund or exchange.
The old saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know,” is true. In our industry, if a client believes they are right, but the facts would indicate otherwise, we feel it is our responsibility to let the client know — challenging Field’s “truth.”
These are some reasons that many business owners stand by their belief that the customer, or client, is NOT always right.
The customer is normally not an expert (although sometimes they think they are). Let’s face it, many customers may pretend they are experts in the area of the item or service they are purchasing, but in a majority of the cases, they have no clue. Actual experts usually will not be problem customers.
When you use the “customer is always right” strategy, you can create animosity within employees. After all, by saying the customer is right, you are often times saying the employee is wrong.
There are some customers that a business really doesn’t need. Some customers, or clients, take such huge advantages of the “I am right” system that they actually end up costing the business large amounts of money.
Some Reasons the Customer IS Always Right
You don’t have a business if you don’t have customers. And your business is not ongoing if you can’t keep the customers, or clients, that you get. Many advocates of the “customer is always right” strategy claim that even if a few take advantage of it, the majority will not, and by adhering to this strategy, overall you gain more in revenue.
One upset customer can cause utter chaos to a business structure. Recently, there was a gentleman who was brutally pulled off of an airplane. Videos have gone viral and it has cost that airline in revenue and reputation.
Is the Customer, or Client, Always Right?
I believe in a middle-of-the-road approach. I think it is dangerous to make gigantic generalizations that are supposed to apply universally — I believe that it all comes down to proper judgment. There are going to be those moments when the customer is right and other times when the entrepreneur or business is right.
To be perfectly honest, it amazes me that this comes down to a debate. There will be mistakes made by businesses and there will be customers, or clients, who attempt to manipulate the system. Perspective is the answer. I think Marshall Field’s “truth” would be better put as, “The customer is always to be respected.”
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