The Customer Is NOT Always Right

“The customer is always right” is a company mantra that has been recited by almost every business since the phrase was coined by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store in London in 1909. Most businesses utilize the phrase in order to:

  1. Convince customers they will get good service at the company.
  2. Convince employees to give customers good service.

However, as Alexander Kjerulf points out in his article– “the customer is always right” mentality is actually detrimental to many businesses and goes on to list the five main reasons why.

  1. It makes employees unhappy. You can’t treat your employees like serfs- you have to value them. If they think you won’t support them when a customer is out of line, even the smallest problem can cause resentment.
  2. It gives abrasive customers an unfair advantage. Abusive customers using the slogan “the customer is always right” can demand just about anything. By definition, they’re right and this makes the employees jobs much harder.
  3. Some customers are bad for business. Most businesses think the “more customers the better” but sometimes businesses are better without the abrasive customers.
  4. It results in worse customer service. When the company and management continuously side with customers instead of employees it sends a clear message: employees are not valued, treating employees fairly is not important and the employees have no right to respect from customers. At that point, employees stop caring about customer service and the best a customer can hope for is fake good service.
  5. Some customers are just plain wrong. The fact is that some customers are just wrong and businesses are better without them.

As a retail employee myself, I found this article to be incredibly valid and valuable. There are often times when an unreasonable customer is preferred over an employee and the results of the situation are always counter productive in providing good customer service, leading to disgruntled employees who feel unappreciated.

What do you think? Is the customer really always right or should businesses consider nixing this mantra for good?

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