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News - Is the Customer Always Right?
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Labour News.

Is the Customer Always Right?

Services are rendered to the customers in real time, which makes the quality of the service very important. The product is consumed by the customer the moment it is delivered. Therefore, there is no time for inspection to make sure that the product is good before it reaches the client. There is no return of the product. This is why service excellence is so important.

For a long time, a popular mantra for service providers to promote service excellence has been “Right or wrong, the customer is always right.” This phrase was coined by either Marshall Field (1834-1906) or Harry Gordon Selfridge (1857-1947), both successful retailers. No matter the origin, this phrase promotes the principle to always put the customer first.

However, customer service would never be this simple because ultimately customer service is about people, the customers and the employees.

A key factor to excellent customer service is to keep the employees happy and motivated. When the employees believe that they are put first, they put the customers first. However, when a company and management always side with customers because “the customer is always right”, employees feel that they are not valued and that management does not care about whether the customers respect them. They also feel that they would therefore have to put up with everything, even improper behavior which crosses the line of morality and ethics. All of these messages translate into bad customer service, or if the customer is lucky, acceptable service tainted with insincerity and sarcasms.

Holding on to this ideal can also give disrespectful and abrasive customers an unfair advantage. Employees would try to accommodate these customers so much so that they would sometimes receive better treatment than good customers. Furthermore, accommodating some customers, who are just unreasonable, can be extremely time consuming and therefore costly, affecting the bottom line.



So What to Do?


  1. Find the right people- Not everyone is suited for dealing with the public. You must keep this in mind during the recruitment process.
  2. Training- Even when you find the best people to provide customer service, they should receive some training. There are a number of institutions that offer training in customer service. However, you may be the best trainer because you have in mind what you want the customer to feel like when they enter your establishment, what they should feel after they receive the service and how you would want your employees to handle unhappy or difficult customers. Actually, it is best to establish clear service guidelines and train the employees to follow these guidelines along with the overall mission of the company.
  3. Establish an environment where great service is recognized and rewarded and poor service is challenged and rectified. This can be achieved by structuring your organization as a customer service team. Financial incentives such as sales commissions and bonuses can also be utilized to motivate employees to deliver excellent service.
  4. Give your employees something to smile about. Ensure that the employees feel that they are an important part of the business and pay them competitive wages. Create a comfortable and even fun working environment where it would not be too difficult to smile. Occasionally have fun team building exercises as opposed to constant formal meetings.
  5. Lead by Example- Show everyone respect at all levels and create a culture of respect which your customers would appreciate.
  6. Listen to your customers. The focus of the business should be to meet the needs of a customer and this requires really listening and understanding what a customer wants. When it is said “the customer is always right”, the customer is right about what he/she wants. Respond to all complaints as an opportunity to improve the business and resolve any problems as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
  7. Handle difficult situations with class and diplomacy.
  8. Remember that sometimes you have to stand behind your employees - You should always give your employees the benefit of the doubt because some customers are just difficult and in some cases, may not even be worth keeping. You must make sure that employees understand that that they must establish personal boundaries and should not tolerate any customer who crosses the line. If employees feel that you have more respect for the customers than for them, then this perception can affect their motivation and productivity and reduce overall service quality.

These steps offer a blueprint to provide excellent customer service and to develop the competitive edge necessary to succeed in the new global economy.

Published: Monday, 15th May, 2006


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