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The customer is not always right
5 reasons to get rid of this toxic business phrase
Is the customer always right? It’s a common adage in the customer service industry. But if you talk to anyone who deals with any sort of customer base, they’ll tell you that in fact, the customer is not always right.
Even if you are adding massive value and creating raving fan customers, difficult people are everywhere. As Abraham Lincoln famously quoted John Lydgate, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”
The phrase “The customer is always right” is wrong – and we’ll tell you why. Here are five reasons why the customer is not always right.
1. Customers don’t know everything
In a perfect world, every customer would fully read instruction manuals, warranties and return policies. In the real world, customers sometimes make ridiculous demands that actually stem from their own mistakes, or give feedback without fully understanding your product or service. But the customer is not always right – you understand your business best. You don’t have to take every piece of feedback, and as long as your policies are fair, you don’t have to give in to every demand.
2. You don’t need every customer
Many small business owners make the mistake of thinking they can best grow their business by targeting every customer, everywhere. This might result in high acquisition in the short-term, but to grow sustainably, you must target your most valuable audience segment and work to earn their loyalty. This is the only way to keep customers coming back – and that’s the ultimate way to increase profits.
3. It isn’t good for employees
A successful business is a delicate balance between a quality product or service, a solid customer base and a well-trained, happy and engaged workforce. “The customer is always right” is wrong because it gives customers an unfair advantage over employees. Rather than feeling heard and receiving support from upper management, employees at a business with a “customer is always right” attitude become “yes” people. That’s no way to retain employees.
4. You must keep innovating
You’ve got happy customers and everything seems to be going well. Congratulations – but even happy customers aren’t always right. When all of your feedback is positive, it can lead to an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude, which leads to complacency and lack of growth and innovation. Remember that there is always something you can improve, and make it a point to commit to constant and never-ending improvement.
5. You can’t afford it
Many businesses refuse to see that the customer is not always right because they think they need to keep their clients in order to continue generating revenue. And yes, that is the ultimate goal – but often, keeping a client becomes more of an expense than letting them go.
The true question is: What is your threshold? That answer depends on your standards. One red flag, however, is if a client is causing other customers’ experience to suffer, either by depleting important resources or by their direct, negative influence on other customers. In that case, the answer is clear: Fire your customer!
It might seem counterintuitive to “fire” a customer, since you spend so much time and energy acquiring them, but you have to consider the possibility. If you had a difficult employee that was not adding value to the company, wouldn’t you evaluate them? Just like an employee and employer, a client and company also have a relationship, and it is not one-sided. Businesses must learn that the customer is not always right – or risk their reputations, referrals and revenue.