It is almost like an over-used dialogue from the movies that “the customer is always right”. You will be surprised to know that some companies rely on the aforementioned so much that they build business models off of it.
Coined by Harry Gordon in the nineteenth century, it now seems more like a tried-and-true principle for rendering good customer service. These days, you can find companies going to ridiculous lengths to satisfy customers.
Nonetheless, following this a little too sincerely could be dangerous too. There will be times when you have to acknowledge that the customer is not always right. As a matter of fact, treating your customers in a way that they are always right always, could put you in some trouble. It can eat up resources, dampen morale, or even hurt the rest of you even loyal ones.
Here are a few instances that prove that a customer is not always right:
1. When customers are ill-informed
One such case that explains this best is the healthcare unit. Although doctors have a legitimate degree, patients often end up self-diagnosing themselves. Due to a fundamental lack of having a fir knowledge about the human body and disease, they make unnecessary suggestions to the doctors.
In fact, focusing on patient “satisfaction” leads to higher health costs and mortality rates compared to placing the emphasis on patient health. You must note that in just an example, where it is the question of someone’s life and death, pure diligence should be portrayed.
Remember not all customers deserve all your attention and efforts. In spite of what the old adage says, always do what is healthy for your company and what is right. In the world of customer stickiness, there could be good customers but then there is everybody else too.
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2. Customer opinions discourage you from improving
When it comes down to choose between supporting your employee or rather an angry customer, pick your staff first. Let your customers know that while you value them enough not to lose them, your employees too are equally precious to you.
There could be rough times when your employee could have inadvertently done a mistake. In such a scenario, it is not the wisest to declare the customer as right. Support your staff while you provide them the right training.
While you strive to pacify the situation as much as possible, know that both are important to your business. It is a customer who passes the verdict and decides the goodness of your company, all of your workshops and training can go in vain if you fire the staff. Therefore, analyze the situation, choose when the customer is right or not, and take the right actions.
3. Tale of Wrong customers
Let me give you a situation here. A customer bought a sofa and wants a 100% refund on it that costs $500 due to it being uncomfortable. Now comfort can be a really subjective thing to decide. Something which is comfortable for you may not be the same for me.
Is this particular customer right in this case? The customer may simply be looking to get a full refund and better yet keep the sofa chair free of charge since many furniture sellers will not request the customer return the item. If the customer is always right in the above scenario, the sofa chair business would quickly lose expensive inventory without turning a profit.
You know your products the best? Is it you and your staff or it is the customers? Also, in any business know that there is a difference between a right and wrong customer. Not all the customers you get are worth shedding a dime for.
4. Customers create unnecessary stress on the employees
Putting faith in your employees’ abilities to solve problems and trusting their judgment makes them more likely to put customers’ needs first in their everyday interactions.
In his book “Happy Hour Is 9 to 5,” Alexander Kjerulf says that “believing the customer is always right is a subconscious way of favoring 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.”
Or the better solution is you can act like you have complete expertise over the product. You can tell them how you have spent a good number of years in your career with the same product at concern. This could change the ball game altogether.
5. Customers drain more time and money
Some customers aren’t always good for your brand, and that is the truth. You cannot accept it until you accept that they are not always right. In Timothy Ferriss’s book, “The 4-Hour Workweek,” he recounts how letting go of the difficult customers who ate up all of his mental bandwidth allowed his business to finally soar.
And that is why, believe it or not. there will always be some customers who you are better off without. If you have a customer who keeps nagging, abuses employees, or causes an action that drains your much invested time and money – they are not worth it.
Funnily enough, there could be times when you will have to ‘fire’ a customer to protect your staff. If that is what the situation demands, do not take a backseat. If you are planning to stick around the business for a long haul, you really do not need such customers.
6. Certain customers irritate your other customers
Think about it: How often have you come across a customer who is extremely rude and unwilling to understand your perspective. Sometimes they create an unpleasant atmosphere that can make other customers’ lives uncomfortable and annoyed.
For example, if a customer complains to you about a particular feature that they are not able to use on your product. They do it very rudely, saying they will tell everyone that your product is a bad fit and not good enough for anyone. Then, they post it on social media, creating negative publicity for your brand.
This can create wrong impressions in the minds of your good customers. Such customers can harm your reputation and prove detrimental in retaining the remaining customers.
It can be a case wherein the customer might need some extra attention to get the most out of your product. But, how they try to create scenes and irritate your other customers proves that the customer is not always right.
If you can help such customers, it will be good for your business. But, if you cannot, be straightforward with them and tell them there is nothing you can do. Always put in your case politely.
7. You have limited resources
Every organization faces a shortage of resources. And, let us face it, this can be time, money, energy, and sometimes even patience. There will be certain customers who will never be satisfied, no matter how good you serve them. A prime example of that is, suppose your customer requests you to build a success playbook for them. Once you create the success playbook, they tell you they are not happy with the end result and were expecting a better outcome.
You try to defend yourself by saying this is the best any company can do. But, they are not convinced. If you ever face such customers, it is always better to address the issue in the best possible way and move ahead. There is no point in feeling guilty about losing out on a customer if they are unwilling to understand your perspective.
Always keep this in mind: You do not have a single customer. There are many more; you are there to meet their needs and support your employees. If you drain yourself by trying to serve a single customer at the expense of other people, it will be detrimental to your business.
8. Customers dictate the tone
Your company and its employees are the best people to know the best about your product or service. If the customer perceives that they know your product’s ins and outs, it is time to set the record right. Sometimes, your customers will try to coerce themselves by telling you how your product should work. This can prove to be harmful for the future of your business.
Just imagine if a customer is not satisfied with a Netflix subscription and they try to force the company to replicate the strategy of Disney + Hotstar. Of course, you will face such customers on a much smaller scale. However, if a customer is frustrated because your product does not function as per their expectation, that does not mean he is right. If the customer tries to use your product improperly, it can even destroy your product completely.
Irrespective of your industry, it can be dangerous to let the customer dictate the tone. This scenario shows that the customers are not always right. If you try to question yourself is the customer right, it will harm your business. A better way is to present yourself as an expert on your product politely and humbly.
Make them comprehend the best ways to utilize your product or service. Inform them of the best way to effectively use your product the right way. This will help you save yourself from the notion that the customer is right even when they are wrong!
9. You cannot satisfy each and every single customer
Customers that drain your energy are not worth keeping. This includes those who have unreasonable demands, never make timely payments, are abusive, and take up much of your valuable time. Time is the biggest constraint you will ever face while managing your business. Hence, you should always take care of dealing with those customers who waste your time.
For example, if a customer comes to you and suggests you create micro-dashboards for all their services which is an impossible task, you may need to refuse them politely. The best way to identify such customers is to avoid those who are giving headaches to your employees. This will help you let go of the notion that the customer is always right!
What can be done?
- Hear them out: It is a given that a customer wants to be heard. For starters, begin by giving people individualized attention. Connect and associate with them on a one-to-one basis. In simpler terms, reach out to them personally. In such a case, practicing active listening can do great wonders.
- Start taking ownerships: Your business is in your hands. It is not even about who is right and who is not. However, a customer’s anger reduces when they meet a rather human interaction, something that shows them that their concerns are being addressed.
- Exceptional Customer Service: It is not impossible to convert a huge detractor into a raving fan. Although it is easier said than done. Having exceptional customer service serves the purpose here. When your service itself does all the talking, you should be assured to see a decline in the attrition rates. A good service will take care of things by itself thereon.
Goes without saying, you and your staff must strive to deliver excellent customer service. Not all customer is always wrong. As a service provider, ensure that you provide the best of all to your customers so that you get an A+ in your performance and learn to handle the case.37
However, if you acclimatize to the ‘customer is always right’ policy, you could actually be hurting your business. You give empowerment to the rude customers, take a notch down on innovation, and eventually end up creating unpleasant experiences for other customers as well. Encourage your staff to go the extra mile with the customers without also enabling rude customers to take over.
Stanley Deepak is an accomplished sales and marketing professional with 15+ years of experience. He loves tech products and book reading. He writes on philosophy and culture on LinkedIn.
Published June 02, 2020, Updated November 18, 2022