61% say the customer ISN’T always right

“The customer is always right.” We all know the old adage that teaches us to always prioritise customer satisfaction above all else; it’s a motto that has no doubt been drilled into the mind of thousands of customer-facing employees.

Research conducted by I am ava has revealed that even the customers themselves don’t necessarily agree to the unwritten rule.

A survey conducted by ava showed that 61% disagree with the old saying, and believe that the customer is not, in fact, always right.

With this in mind, they spoke to three customer service experts to find out how to not let pleasing your customers at all costs become detrimental to your company.

Here’s what they had to say…

1) Your customer service could get worse

Constantly putting your customers as your top priority could actually result in a nosedive in the quality of your customer service. When management and the company constantly side with the customer, they run the risk of sending all the wrong messages. It’s easy for employees to feel like they should put up with everything from customers and deserve no respect, and that they aren’t valued.

On the other hand, employees who are well trained and feel appreciated will be a joy to work with. And that happiness will transfer to your customers’ experiences too.

Michael D. Brown, author of Fresh Customer Service, sheds more light on this: “The customer is number two. The employee is number one.

“The key to running a successful operation is believing in, and practicing, the concept that customers should always come second. Employees matter more in the immediate sense and should, therefore, come first. After all, happy employees unleash their enthusiasm and passion from within, and that passion is contagious. It infects everyone around them – including customers.

“Frontline employees need to feel appreciated, motivated and important. If you ever hope to provide a world-class customer service experience, then you need to take care of those frontline employees first.

“Happy employees naturally provide superior customer service. So, thank your employees every day, let them be involved in the planning of the work affecting them, and treat them with the utmost respect and courtesy. Even in times when consumers are looking to do things quickly and cheaply, they will notice… and they will come back for more!”

2) It could take you from service to servile

Your business exists to provide a service to customers, not to serve them. There is a key difference here. Many businesses out there think that the more customers they have the better, but there are some customers out there who are just bad for business.

The problem with trying to please everyone is that, quite simply, you can’t.

Chris Simpson, a consultant with Business Doctors, says it is essential for businesses not to cater to all.

“The customer is definitely not always right. In fact, they may be the wrong customer for the entire business.

“Something I have discovered is that a lot of the time when we’re having conversations about whether the customer should be allowed to call the shots, it turns out the customer is entirely wrong for the business.

“The mentality of ‘the customer is always right’ leads businesses over the edge from service into servile, and in the long run isn’t good for the supplying business or the customer.

“Of course, the customer should always be listened to, but once you have heard and understood the key questions you need to ask yourself; ‘are these the right customers for me?’ Size, shape, needs, demands, location and culture are all important characteristics of customers and if you really know who you serve best you will only be working for customers.”

3) It can drain your limited resources

For SMEs and start-ups in particular, you only have a finite amount of resources at your disposal. There is only so much time, energy and money available to you, and it makes logical business sense that you would want to focus on customers who are most likely to become loyal ambassadors of your brand.

Benjamin Dyers, CEO of Powered Now, explains that it can be a tricky balancing act to master:

“Caring about your customers is important, especially so in today’s ever-connected society; good and bad news travels fast! However, good customer service shouldn’t come at any cost and unreasonable customers can cause problems, sometimes big ones.

“The truth is difficult customers exist, you’ll come across them from time to time. However, it has to be said that most people are reasonable and if you’re living up to your customer-centric values they can normally be dealt with easily. When we screw up, and we all do, my mantra is apologise, fix things and if needed, offer some compensation. But not at any cost.

“If you run a small business then unreasonable customers are costly. The time needed to deal with an unreasonable customer is a cost most of us simply cannot contain – they are a distraction. It’s a tricky balance to get right, as there can never be an excuse for being rude to customers.”