Businesses commonly utilise the term "the customer is always right" to persuade customers that they will receive good service and to persuade employees to provide good service; nevertheless, I believe businesses should reject this phrase once and for all.
However, I believe that businesses should stop using this statement altogether, because it, ironically, leads to poor customer service.
Here are the top five reasons why "The Customer Is Always Right" is wrong.
Employees are dissatisfied.
Gordon Bethune is a bold Texan (as is Herb Kelleher, by the way) most known for turning Continental Airlines around "From Worst to First," a storey detailed in his 1998 book of the same name. He wanted to make sure that both customers and staff were happy with how Continental treated them, therefore he made it plain that the adage "the customer is always right" did not apply to Continental.
He always sided with his people in disputes between employees and rowdy clients. He phrased it like way:
As a result, Bethune put his faith in his team over irrational clients. This mindset appeals to me because it strikes a balance between employees and customers. The "always right" adage prioritises the consumer, which is a horrible concept since, as Bethune points out, it leads to staff animosity.
Of fact, there are numerous examples of poor staff providing poor customer service, but attempting to resolve the problem by declaring the customer "always right" is counterproductive.
It provides an unfair advantage to abrasive customers.
Abuseful clients can demand just about anything under the tagline "The customer is always right" — after all, aren't they right by definition? When trying to reign them in, this makes the job of the staff that much more difficult.
It also implies that abusive people are treated and treated better than pleasant people. That has always felt terrible to me, and it makes far more sense to treat nice customers well in order to keep them coming back.
Customers Can Be a Pain in the Neck
Most businesses think that "the more customers the better". But some customers are quite simply bad for business.
Just like Kelleher dismissed the irate lady who kept complaining (but somehow also kept flying on Southwest), ServiceGruppen fired a bad customer. Note that it was not even a matter of a financial calculation -- not a question of whether either company would make or lose money on that customer in the long run. It was a simple matter of respect and dignity and of treating their employees right.
As a result, customer service suffers.
Rosenbluth International, a corporate travel business that was recently purchased by American Express, went even further. Put The Customer Second - Put Your People First and Watch'em Kick Butt, by CEO Hal Rosenbluth, is a great book about their strategy.
Rosenbluth contends that when employees are prioritised, customers are prioritised as well. Employees will be happier at work if you prioritise them. Employees that are happy at work provide superior customer service for the following reasons:
They are more concerned with the welfare of others, including customers.
They have more stamina.
They are happier, which means they are more enjoyable to converse with and associate with. They are also more motivated.
When a corporation and its management repeatedly side with customers rather than with employees, however, it sends a clear message that:
Employees are unappreciated.
It is unimportant to treat employees decently.
Customers have no right to respect employees.
Customers can be difficult to deal with, and employees must put up with it.
When this attitude prevails, employees stop caring about service. At that point, genuinely good service is almost impossible -- the best customers can hope for is fake good service. You know the kind I mean: courteous on the surface only.
Some customers are simply incorrect.
The fact is that some customers are just plain wrong, that businesses are better of without them, and that managers siding with unreasonable customers over employees is a very bad idea, that results in worse customer service
So any business needs to put its people first -- and watch them put the customers first.