Everyone–especially those who’ve worked in the retail or hospitality industries–are all too familiar with the term: The customer is always right. This maxim was no doubt drummed up as a way to ensure repeat business by giving customers exactly what they want. Unfortunately, there are all too many people out there who are more than willing to take advantage of this outdated theory. This not only defeats the original purpose of the principle, but it can do more harm than good to a business in the long run. Here’s why.
Erosion of the bottom line
While this may not be the most important point, it’s one of the most obvious–not to mention cut-and-dried–of the bunch. A business owner who consistently caves in to unreasonable demands will eventually see his profits decline. It’s a good idea to have clear policies in place when it comes to customer complaints. That way, it will be easier to hold firm when a request is out of line.
There’s no pleasing some people
It’s another of the world’s hard truths: There is that odd customer who will never be satisfied, no matter what’s offered or how hard the staff is trying to appease her. A good rule of thumb? Be consistently courteous and patient, but stick to the line when necessary. If a reasonable solution is offered and refused, hold firm. Trot out the company policy on the issue, if necessary. Remember that even if that customer never returns, there are plenty of others who won’t take up as much time and energy–and be far more appreciative.
The employer/employee rift
The insistence that every customer demand should be met at any cost can have an adverse effect on employees, who will inevitably be made to feel undervalued. Having a healthy respect for workers’ opinions will lead to a stronger employer/employee relationship, and also provide a model that good customers will appreciate.
To be clear, letting go of the idea that the customer is always right doesn’t mean that one should bat away any constructive criticism. Some customers are still going to present with valid complaints; it comes with the territory. The idea is to keep the well-meaning, mildly inconvenienced correctors separate from the trouble-seekers.