Is the Customer Always Right?

23 10 2007

The quick answer: No they are often wrong, but what can you do about it?

We have all heard the adage that apparently originated at Marshall Fields around the turn of the century. However, as anyone who has ever worked in a service or retail job is intimately familiar, the customer can be obnoxious, ridiculous, and sometimes even a little bit insane.

Well according to Debra Brede, an investment adviser and owner of five-person D.K. Brede Investment Management, we should simply fire the customer. Here’s the full BusinessWeek article: Why, When, and How to Fire That Customer

Furthermore, the Chief Happiness Officer blog provides us is a well written list of the top 5 reasons why the customer is wrong:

1: It makes employees unhappy
2: It gives abrasive customers an unfair advantage
3: Some customers are bad for business
4: It results in worse customer service
5: Some customers are just plain wrong

Check out the original article for further elaboration on the points.

Firing customers is not a solution, it is avoidance of the problem.

No offense to those who live in the world of finance, but you cannot capture the value of a customer in an equation. It is not a matter of they are worth X and cost us Y; Y > X = Fire ’em.

Here are three key insights into difficult consumers:

1. They aren’t all bad:

At times I would consider myself a bad customer; however, I am almost always provoked by terrible service. Yesterday I was at Circuit City in Union Square here in New York and I was looking for a specific computer cable, but I got the run around and after 25 minutes I lost my patience and dug into an employee, in retrospect more than I should have, but I was serviced immediately. Looking back, could I have just started off angry and saved 25 min? This type of situation trains a customer that the only way to get decent service to raise your voice a bit. On the other hand since retail service is usually sub par, I always take the time to thank employees when they do a good job.

2. Take some time to listen:

Instead of just writing people off, listen to them. The reason they are angry could very well be justified. Listen to them, and try to fix the problem together. You can learn a lot.

3. Really bad customers, can be really bad for business

I will admit that some customers are just nasty and walk in looking for a fight, but the number of customers that are beyond reproach is very small. Most people come around if you give them a little respect. For the ones that are adamantly *%#@(‘s, well just deal with them. They are few and far between and you don’t want them on a vendetta against your establishment as they can drive away a whole lot more business than what the ‘equation’ can account for.



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