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Feb 03 2016

Why The Customer Is Not Always Right

Category: GeneralMyles Calvert @ 11:51 am

You can use a few different cliches here, but I’ll go with the popular “you can’t please everyone”. As true as this is in everyday life, it’s even more true in business. Whether it’s due to personality conflicts, having a wildly different set of expectations (or other descriptions that are best saved over a drink after hours), from a business owners perspective, not every customer is worth the trouble. The less time and energy we spend on these few “bad” customers, the more we can spend on the many other great ones who deserve it.

To further explain my feelings on the topic, I’d like to share an article written by a web industry expert. Often times I find an article so well written that I simply couldn’t have said it better myself, and the article below by Jayson DeMers is exactly that.


No, The Customer Is Not Always Right.
Written By Jayson DeMers (@jaysondemers)

The Customer Is Not Always Right

How many times have you had to grit your teeth, take a deep breath and silently repeat to yourself, “The customer is always right”? This is a motto that’s drilled into every young retail or hospitality worker, and has somehow made its way into the psyches of established business owners.

The problem is, the customer isn’t always right, and always thinking otherwise can result in serious disservice to you, your employees, and your customers. Here’s why.

1. Unreasonable customers eat away at your finite resources.

You only have limited resources available to you; don’t allocate a disproportionate amount of them to customers who repeatedly cause problems. You only have so much time, money and energy to dedicate to customer service, or to your business, and an unreasonable customer or client can quickly eat away at the majority of it.

If you’ve tried your best to address a complaint and the customer still isn’t happy, it’s time to move on from that customer. Use your limited resources to address the concerns of customers who are willing to engage in reasonable dialogue with you. When you focus on meeting the needs of your reasonable customers, you build loyal brand ambassadors…and I’d rather have a bunch of these than throw all my resources at customers who are impossible to please.

The Customer Is Not Always Right

In his book Customer Centricity, Peter Fader encourages business owners to focus on the customers who matter most: “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.”

In Tim Ferriss’ wildly popular and successful book, The 4 Hour Workweek, Ferriss recounts a personal story early in the book which details how he nearly hit his mental breaking point because he was trying to please every customer. He soon discovered that a few customers were taking the majority of his bandwidth and causing the majority of his stress, though they contributed only a relatively small percentage of the company’s total revenue. His solution? He gave the clients an ultimatum: if they couldn’t do business his way, he didn’t want to do business with them at all. The result? Some of the clients changed to accommodate Ferriss’ requests. Others refused to change, so he fired them. Ferriss’ mental overhead drastically decreased, and his business soared as he only accepted clients that fit his ideal customer model from that point onward.

2. This mindset positions employees against customers and management.

If you’re lucky enough to have found employees who you trust and respect, don’t risk losing them by siding with the customer by default. When you tell your employees “the customer is always right”, you immediately position them against the customer – and the customer always wins.

Customer Is Not Always Right

If you want to keep your employees happy and effective, back them up. Prove to them that you respect their judgment and opinions, and when faced with siding with your employee or an unreasonable customer, always choose your employee.

According to Alexander Kjerulf, author of Happy Hour is 9 to 5, happy employees lead to the best possible customer service: “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”.

Putting employees first may also lead to an increase in perceived control among employees. And according to Ravi Tangri, author of Stress Costs, Stress Cures: How to Recover Productivity Lost to Stress, this increased control can have very concrete benefits: “Workers with high levels of perceived control are not as likely to report high levels of conflict or interference between work and their family lives. The more control an employee feels over his own health and over things that happen to him at work, the less likely he is to report absences totaling six days or more in the previous year.”

3. Money isn’t everything. Not even close.

We’ve all had customers or clients who have unrealistic expectations of what we can or should do to keep them happy. They demand – whether explicitly or implicitly – more of our time, energy and resources than our other clients.

It was recently reported that Chicago-based ad agency Cramer-Krasselt fired big-name client Panera Breads because of a poor working relationship. In a leaked internal memo, the agency claimed that the troubled working relationship just wasn’t worth it. In the memo, Peter Krivkovich, chairman-CEO of Cramer-Krasselt wrote: “There comes a time when no matter what the acclaim for the work, no matter what that visibility, no matter how good of a relationship we have with the marketing department…in the end, no amount of money makes it worthwhile.”


Written By Jayson DeMers (@jaysondemers)

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