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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Customer is Always Right!

"The Customer is Always Right"

How many times have we heard that?

How many managers have said it?

How many company websites, stationary, business cards, sales material and coffee mugs have sported this saying?

How many of us believe it?

Photo Courtesy of LonelyBob, Some Rights Reserved
Ok, you can put your hands down.

Before we get into the post, let's find a few things we all can agree on.

1. Customers are important.

2. Customer service is important.

3. Many customers THINK they are always right.

4. Odds are, customers are NOT right as often as they'd like to believe.

Can we agree on those? If you disagree, well, get your own dang blog! This one's mine ;)

But let's be honest, the customer is NOT always right. And quite frankly, the ones that are insistent that they are, and are determined to rub it in your face--like you're a dog in need of house training--probably aren't your best customers anyways.

But does this mean that you just write off their complaints as the ramblings of a madman and laugh mockingly at the stupid notion that "the customer is always right?"

Short answer: No.

And here's why:

Perception is reality.

I LOVE that phrase, and no where is it more applicable than in customer service.

Here's what I mean:

In reality, your customer is wrong, the terms of delivery were 5-7 BUSINESS days, not 5-7 days, regardless of Christmas, New Years and the Sunday in between!

In perception, your customer feels you are incompetent, and incapable of keeping your word...and he tells EVERYONE at Starbucks exactly that.

In reality, the warranty clearly states that throwing your product onto a rock from your tree stand 35 feet up voids the warranty.

In perception, your client tells all his hunting buddies that not only is your product a piece of crap, but your service belongs in the toilet as well.

You get the idea.

Now I'm not saying you should fall all over your customers if they are blatantly wrong. You only need a fraction of the earth's billions of inhabitants as clients. Some clients are best served by making sure the door doesn't hit them on the way out.

My point is,

When striving to provide excellent customer service, be mindful, and take into account that, though they may be wrong, your client's perception IS THEIR reality, and he will relay it to everyone he associates with as such.

Perception is reality.

Perhaps THAT phrase should be found in our businesses (and maybe on a coffee mug) a little more often. It may improve our ability to understand and serve our customers.

Question: How have you seen perception affect your job or business?

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Twitter: @Skropp2


  1. I think the old saying was true for the product based industries. If I designed a car that a customer hates, clearly the customer is right.

    In the service industry, my job as a consultant is to help a client think and act differently. I do not have responsibility, I have influence (that is the difference between a manager and consultant). Ultimately, the client (manager) has the authority, responsibility, and decision to use my recommendations or not.

    If the manager does not, I have not failed as a consultant, nor has the manager failed at managing. My client is not wrong, and I am not wrong for the work I did with the client. It is just the way things are in the world of service.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I agree Jon.

      If my customers were always right, they wouldn't need me. To treat them as such would put me out of a job.

      I once started a book on political consulting and rule #1 was "People are stupid."

      Customers are people. And people are stupid. I think I remember from math class that if A = B and B = C, A = C. Just saying :)

    3. I remember that from math class too! It's about the only thing I use on a consistent basis!

      I love that quote, if my customers were always right they wouldn't need me. So true! And a great way to look at it!

  2. Wow... spicy post today. I love it. I think we are a little bit too entitled these days on both ends. I think if the sales process is followed correctly, each party will know their exact role and a transaction can be completed under civilized terms. I just used the example, I presented an "all you can eat buffet" to a customer and they chose a happy meal.

    1. Maybe all they really wanted was the toy.. Haha. Thanks for reading. Spicy is good? No?