It’s probably the most overused expression in customer service:
The customer is always right!
For the longest time, I thought it was complete BS. My reasoning? I’m a customer, and I’m wrong a lot. That’s pretty simple, right?
I assume things that aren’t true and I expect things that aren’t possible. My customers are also often wrong. They claim one thing and I find another.
So, how could this possibly be true. How could the customer always be right?
It’s Up to You
Nobody is perfect, so the literal translation is clearly wrong, but what the best service organizations figure out is that you can choose to make the customer right.
- If a customer has an unreasonable expectation, you can choose to live it up to it.
- If a customer mistakenly blames you for something, you can choose to accept it.
- If a customer’s perception of your value is way off, you can choose to alter it.
You always have a choice when it comes to customer interaction. It’s up to you to make the customer right.
What If I Can’t Choose?
- If a customer disagrees with one of your core business principles, then is the customer still right?
- If a customer creates problems for your other customers, then is the customer still right?
- If a customer becomes unprofitable and is unwilling to change, then is the customer still right?
The answer is an emphatic no, because they’re not your customer anymore. Or they won’t be for long.
And then you have another choice. Will you politely explain your predicament and show them the door, or will you let them leave on their own while complaining to their friends?
I advise you to politely decline to do any further business with them. It’s better to avoid living up to unreasonable expectations than to kill yourself trying.
Sprint famously fired more than 1000 customers back in 2007 with a form letter explaining their situation.
It may not have been the best PR move in the world, but I believe they did the right thing. After all, the negative word of mouth from this incident couldn’t possibly add up to 1000 unhappy customers that were also unprofitable. I bet those customers weren’t very forthcoming that they’d been dismissed by Sprint either. That’s kind of embarrassing if you ask me.
The Bottom Line
The customer should always be treated with the utmost respect, regardless of whether they’re right or wrong. Choose to make them right when it makes sense and don’t be afraid to respectfully fire them when it doesn’t.