Customers’ Views Breathe Life Into Always Being Right Rule
by Kate Nasser | 23 Comments »
The rule, the customer is always right, has survived over a century as a quick way to instill a strong sense of customer in all employees.
Despite its detractors, it has breathed life into customer service and sales and filled the gaps during uncertain moments.
As new graduates enter the workforce, many will be glad to know that customers’ views breathe life into this old being right rule.
The customers’ views about the following are always right — always count:
- Urgency. – Theirs not ours.
- Business or personal impact. – To them before us.
- Critical factors. – From their perspective over ours when there is disagreement.
- What they expect of us. – Work hard and smart to achieve it.
- How they want to be treated as people. – Completely right.
The key to living this old rule in today’s world is to remember that we may disagree or say no even when the customer’s view is right for them.
Whether we say no for ethical reasons, legal restrictions, limited capabilities, or strategic mission, we must still treat the customers’ views with respect. They have insider insight we will never have regardless of how well or how long we know them. The decision of where to buy is theirs.
Their views are the lifeline for our success. Respecting their views preserves that lifeline for the long term. Acting as if we always know better, suffocates the customers’ views and could forever sever our lifeline of insider insight.
Benefits of The Customer Is Always Right Rule
- It helps establish a customer centric culture.
Guides all employees to sell to and serve the customer well within the strategic mission of the business.
Increases our listening especially when our experience tries to drown it out.
Keeps us in service mode even when business is booming.
Fills the gaps during uncertain moments.
Shows constant gratitude and desire for future business.
Expresses respect for the customers’ insight and perspective.
Builds trust for current and future business and often with more openness for our views and expertise.
Basically, it keeps customers coming back and interested in what we have to offer. Not a bad payoff for one old rule.
Yours in service,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach
©2011 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish this post, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach, delivers consulting, training, DVDs, and keynotes that turn interaction obstacles into business success especially in tough times. See this site for customer service workshop outlines and business results. Fill the gaps in customer service and teamwork with business wins – book Kate now.
Old service phrase we still live by and you’ve given great examples of why they work. The key is definitely respect. When agents drone out “Our policy states…” they have truly lost the customer’s ear. Great post!
Truly love your added tip — avoid at all cost “the policy states”. It’s the same as saying to the customer, “do things our way or we won’t honor you with our service”. I’ve never meet a customer who truly cared about our policies. Have them, yes. Quote them to the customer that way — never.
Have a super day.
Customers deserve this attitude and treatment. Too many organizations have forgotten how the basics will serve them and their customers very well. Nice post.
Old time basics still have life — I totally agree. Many thanks Lisa for your visit, time, and insights.
When engaging with your customers, communication is key. You will build trust with your customers by providing accurate information and being responsive. I always say, If you treat your customers how you would treat your mother everything will be ok.
We businesses have to keep this mentality because, in the end, without them there is no company! Yes, customers can ask for too much or expect unreasonable exceptions or whatnot. But, in the end our job is to make them feel valued and give them a reason to come back. If we don’t keep the belief that the customer is always right, we are asking for our customers to look elsewhere for a company that does feel they are always right.
My life seems to revolve around customer service and support these days, of course, because I work for Assistly. But I can’t help but notice in my personal experience, a couple of surprising things.
First, I notice the increased importance customer service is getting–particularly with what I call “cool young startups.” So many of these progressive young companies get it–and focus on differentiating on service and support. That’s a satisfying trend.
The other thing I am noticing is the opposite–customer service that is obviously an afterthought, or not a priority, or done in a token way that is truly baffling. I recently got a letter from Clinique, for example, that got as close to calling me a liar as possible. What are these companies thinking? What makes them act this way?
I really admire those thought leaders and influencers who can find new and interesting ways to bring home the message of Customer Wow — a message that I know is going to help companies of all sizes succeed. I’m glad to see these comments and I look forward to moving the cause forward!
I’m with you Alyson. There are both trends happening — and I too prefer the great service. Always wonder what the others are thinking. Perhaps they are busy managing decline instead of fostering success.
Many thanks for your thoughts and I welcome your comments on any post here at Smart SenseAbilities.
In my work, I have always used this phrase; “The customer might not always be right BUT he is NEVER wrong.” It is the perception thing at work.
Love the distinction and how you worded it. Great add to this post. Many thanks for your time, visit, and perspective.
Great post Kate. The customer always being right is a classic, but often interpreted in various directions.
As you mention correctly Respect is the key to success here. I always tell contact employees that ‘the customer might not always be right, but he deserves the best possible experience’. Without respect this would never work.
Exactly Bart. I never read the rule as a literal proclamation yet many get stuck in it when they feel pressed. Your assertion that they deserve a great experience and loads of respect may help others to understand what this rule has always meant.
Thanks again and I welcome your visits to Smart SenseAbilities.
I like your point that customers determine the urgency and impact
I tell my clients that ‘the customer is not always right, but they always win the argument’.
It’s amazing that some of the truest and most successful approaches to engagement and customer service are decades old. “The customer is always right”, the teachings of Dale Carnegie or a few others I like:
– “Well done is better than well said.”
– “It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.”
This is a discussion that needs to continue as most customers feel customer service is failing them (as indicated in numerous surveys).
I have another one: “An oldie but a goodie”
Thanks Russ — your additions underscore age old wisdom that never dies. Many thanks!!
I think the Customer is wrong many more times than she’s right..
Customers don’t fill out (online) forms like they should, they don’t research their options well enough so they make the wrong decisions about what to buy, they are wrong about what they thought they read (somewhere), about how to use your product and how to maintain it..
And even more so the Customer leaves value on the table, because features and/or options are not recognized, not used, not understood well enough..
The last – but not least – mistake many Customers make is that they don’t vote with their feet.. Because the company that is supposed to serve these Customers, does not seem to care enough about their Customers being wrong.. Not enough the help them be right..
Maybe the best way to serve your Customers is to acknowledge they’re wrong, and make it your mission to help them get it right..
What do you think?
You will not find a bigger customer advocate than me. In short, I agree with the spirit of the post, but to make it gospel is dangerous.
If we truly believe in customer “relationships”, then the concept that the customer is always right is unfortunately flawed, because very few people are ALWAYS right. Customers can be irrational, selfish, irresponsible, and even unprofitable.
As in any relationship, sometimes there is mis-alignment of expectations and lack of a compelling value proposition for both sides. This value exchange changes and evolves over time. The duty of an organization is to continually listen, show empathy, gain a deeper understanding of needs, and provide a product or service offering that provides significant value for their customers, or better yet, provide a platform for customers to co-create their own products and services, and support each other in their mutual journeys and jobs to be done.
To fail to recognize that some customers are simply unprofitable is to deny the truth. In some cases, it may make sense for the organization, in their best interest and in duty to their shareholders to first attempt to re-establish relational guidelines in order to achieve a better balance for both parties, or in some cases, even “fire customers”.
Understand that the context I am speaking of is one of an endless and tireless pursuit to create value, to delight customers, and to create a community of engaged, happy, and enthusiastic customers. The reality is that each of our organizations won’t be a fit for some customers.
In service to those who are engaged, it makes sense to re-allocate human capital away from those who are unprofitable for the organization towards better servicing those who are.
Before anyone screams about customers are about more than profits for the organization, I agree. The challenge is that profits today are only measured in monetary currency. Which ignores things like referral value, or recommendation value. See http://freecrmstrategies.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/the-5-stages-of-customer-acquisition-for-the-social-business-part-i/
Umair Haque suggests a new triple bottom line measurement for corporations, which would in turn require a more meaningful measurement of customers and our relationships with them.
In short, I agree with the spirit of the post and the accompanying mindset to listen, serve, and respect customers. However, not all relationships are equal nor mutually beneficial.
Thanks for a thought-provoking post. I’ve actually written on this topic multiple times. And while I agree that this is a great tag line, in practice, any relationship (while I cringe at that term as relates to customers and companies) that is so totally one sided is pretty much doomed to fail. Your list actually provides a good framework to keep in the back of our minds, but it needs to be applied with open eyes not with blind faith.
Examples I’ve referenced include Borders Books – a company that apparently had a great reputation for customer service (and so you assume they viewed the customer as always right) and yet, they were recently liquidated as an ongoing concern. You know I’m an advocate of the customer experience. But, I’m also a pragmatist and someone who has learned that business decisions that don’t make financial sense dont typically forecast a long term future for any business.
I’ve personally been witness to scenarios where customers have openly taken abused and taken advantage of companies’ application of this tag line.
If your spouse, boss or friends were always right, how would that erode your investment in that relationship over time?
So, is the customer always right? If you provide exeptional customer experience, does that justfy the financial house of cards that is required to support that white glove touch? Should every customer be treated as a VIP? The most elegant definition I’ve ever heard of “CRM” is “treating different customers differently”. So, they can’t all be right.
Kate, excellent post! You could have called your piece “the customer is STILL always right! Too many businesses focus on the tiniest percentage of customers that may be trying to take advantage of a company instead of employing the philosophy of looking at every interaction from the individual customer’s point of view. If companies were to think of each customer, as a person first, customer second, they would dramatically improve their repeat business, revenues and profitability. And, what company doesn’t want to do that? Richard Shapiro, The Center For Client Retention
Love your title suggestion — I may email you the next time I want to create a great title 🙂
And yes, seeing everything from the customer’s view brings great insight even if you have to negotiate particulars.
Many thanks for adding perspective to this post Richard.
I live up the hill from the original Stew Leonard’s in Norwalk, CT. They have a six thousand pound piece of granite at their entrance. It is etched with these two rules:
1. The Customer is Always Right
2. If the Customer is Ever Wrong, re-read Rule 1
I think the benefits of the ‘customer is always right’ approach far outweigh the negatives. It’s a compass that guides all decisions, but it should not be the absolute rule. As one of my favorite law school professors would say, ‘when the reason stops, therefore should stop the rule.
A little lagniappe about being “Right”. This is printed on a gravestone in Massachusetts:
Herein lies the body of William Jay
Who died maintaining his right of way
He was right, dead right as he sped along
And now he’s just as dead as if he were wrong
Well chosen topic as usual ????
Won’t add much as above fine people covered all but my small comment will be, customer is not always right coz it is known in studying the consumer behavior that most customers buying behaviors are done unconsciously! So the customer isn’t always right as he is not fully aware of his actual needs!
Opps I meant to say subconsciously lol