The Customer is Always Right! .. Or Is He?

‘The customer is king’ and ‘customer is always right’ are just a few of the commonly-used and oft-thrown-around terms in business. Such business concepts stress upon the fact that it is essential to put the customer (and his needs) first, and that it is never a good idea to disagree with a customer in any way. In fact, businesses should strive to keep customers as satisfied as possible, and make customer satisfaction a priority, because that is where the money comes from (the single most important thing for any business), and without customers a business would simply cease to exist.

While this emphasis on customer satisfaction and treating the customer like a king is a great business strategy, and something that all businesses should strive to do. Making and offering the best products and services, having a competitive edge over other similar businesses, and giving the customer what he needs are just some of the ways to keep customers happy and building customer loyalty.

However the simple fact of the matter is that the statement ‘customer is always right’ is simply an outdated concept now, and trying or attempting to keep all your customers happy is simply not realistic any more.

In fact, sticking with the concept of customer always being right can have adverse effects on a business. Here are some of the reasons why businesses are now abandoning this concept – and rightly so:


Some customers are actually bad for business

Fact: some customers are just not worth it, and might actually cost you money! Keeping these customers is unhealthy for your business, and you should get rid of them.

The simplest way to do so is by applying the 80-20 rule: 80% of all your business and revenues comes from 20% of your customers. These are your best, most valuable clients, who are bringing you a large chunk of business. Look at the other 80% of your customers in order to determine which ones are just not worth keeping.

But how exactly do you define ‘bad customers’?

They’re the customers who, instead of making you money, cost your business money – simple as that. They waste company time, energy and resources. For instance some might fail to clear their bills on time, or might be rude with your employees (more on this in a bit). Or perhaps they might even be dishonest. They need too much ‘looking-after’, or they might tend to complain about or haggle over everything.

Ask yourself this: are these customers profitable and important/valuable enough to keep?

If not, you and your business would do well to sever ties with them.


Some customers might have a negative effect on your employees

Yes, building customer loyalty is a good thing. However it is equally important – if not more so – to treat your employees well. After all, the people working for you and your business need to be treated well.

It is therefore essential to strike a balance here. You want to keep both parties – the customers as well as the employees – happy, but not at the expense of the other.

Trust your own people, give them the benefit of the doubt. If a customer is wrong, ranting unnecessarily, or being a jerk, for instance, make sure you choose sides wisely. But make sure that you treat your employees fairly, and provide them with the sense that they are valuable members of the organization and the team.

Gordon Bethune says: “You can’t treat your employees like serfs. You have to value them . . . If they think that you won’t support them when a customer is out of line, even the smallest problem can cause resentment.”

Spot on!


Some customers may try taking advantage of your attitude

Since you always treat customers as kings, customers bad for your business will take every opportunity they possibly can to take advantage of you – and they wouldn’t be wrong, would they.angry customers

Sometimes, it is important how to draw a line and say ‘no’. Abusive customers might have the tendency to make unreasonable demands, and if you cave in to those demands, your business will end up taking a hit.

Not only that, it will also be unfair to the people who are actually bringing you the bulk of your business.

It is perfectly reasonable to treat your customers right, but it is also important to determine where exactly you need to draw the line.


Ending Words

After having said all that, it is essential to remember that a lot depends on the nature of your business. For instance many niche businesses – such as those with a very specific and small clientele, might not afford to lose customers. In such cases, it might get tricky so tread carefully.

Never treat your customers badly. Remember that people now have choices, and if you don’t treat your customers properly, they will simply go to your competition. Listen to your customers, and make them feel special. Give them what they want. Let them vent. Listen to their complaints and their concerns. Do your best to address them. Train your support staff to be as supportive, courteous and polite as possible.

If you don’t want their business, tell it to them politely that you do not wish to do any more business with them.

Like I said, it is essential to define boundaries, and where you want to draw the line.

Thoughts and comments are welcome!