Is the Customer Always Right? 4 Reasons That Thinking Is Wrong

Posted on July 8th, 2015

One of the basic tenets of business has long been that the customer is always right. As the lifeblood of any business, the people behind the money that pays a business’s bills are its top priority. Make customers happy and the money will follow.

However, always giving in to customer demands has its problems, as well. A business has to know when to stand up for itself and protect its assets from the damage unreasonable customers can cause. Here are a few reasons customers aren’t always right.

Businesses Have a Duty to Protect Employees

While it’s true that customers are vital to the success of a company, without great employees a business wouldn’t get very far. This is especially true of customer-facing employees like those found on a sales floor of a retail shop or a customer service desk. Businesses put policies in place that those employees are expected to uphold. Yet all too often when a customer creates enough drama, supervisors will bend policies to prevent further damage. This puts the employees in a position where they’ve said no, only to have management say yes, leading them to feel as though they have no support for the work they’re being asked to do.

Most of all, however, businesses should protect their employees from disrespectful customer behavior. The first tendency for angry customers is to take their dissatisfaction out on the front-line employees, who usually have nothing at all to do with the problem. They simply are expected to serve as the ear of the company while also trying to find a resolution. However, your business should have a no tolerance policy when it comes to disrespectful treatment, especially if the customer crosses the line into profanity and personal insults. The employee should be instructed to escalate these situations to a supervisor while remaining professional at all times.

It Puts Pleasant Customers at a Disadvantage

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” the old saying goes. It can be very difficult for a business to allow a customer to remain at the customer service desk, noisily complaining, especially if other customers are nearby. Even phone-based employees can feel tempted to give in to demanding callers in order to get off the phone as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this rewards bad behavior while unfairly punishing customers who politely accept a business’s rules and agree to follow them.

A good example of this is a business’s return policy. A company can caution customers about its return policies at the point of purchase, but that won’t necessarily stop a few people from causing a scene over it. For the majority of customers who respect a business’s policies, it is unfair that a minority of complainers can get around that policy and get a full refund. It also rewards bad behavior, which trains consumers that angrily shouting at employees gets results.

Unreasonable Customers Cost Money

To placate unhappy customers, businesses will offer refunds, give coupons for free items, and give away merchandise or services. When a customer has a legitimate complaint, this investment is worthwhile, since it could turn an unhappy customer into someone who will loyally do business with your brand for many years. With an unreasonable customer, nothing a business can do will serve to make things completely right. Even if they choose to do business with your company again, they’ll come in with the mindset that they went to war with your employees and won. This isn’t the ideal customer, by any stretch of the imagination.

Over time, a business’s policy of rewarding loud complainers will cause it to attract bad customers who have heard if they cause a scene they’ll get their way. When supervisors and managers repeatedly support customers who refuse to follow policies, employee morale drops, leading to more rapid turnover, putting managers in the position of constantly interviewing and training new employees. The cost of all of this turnover can add up over a year, wreaking havoc on its budget.

The Culture Has Tipped in Customers’ Favor

Review sites have put customers at an advantage when dealing with businesses. One post from a disgruntled customer on a site like Yelp can scare customers away for years. Out of fear of retaliation, many businesses will bend over backward for customers, even when they’re making unreasonable demands. While it’s great that customers have recourse against poor-performing businesses, this has also created a culture where customers are in control.

Unfortunately, even giving a customer everything he wants is no guarantee against a negative review. A business can work hard to appease an unhappy customer, only to have that customer blast it on social media. While word of mouth has always existed, the Internet has extended each customer’s reach dramatically, giving businesses good reason to fear what might be posted about them next.

Any business will eventually deal with an unhappy customer. When that happens, it’s important to take the right approach in order to make the customer happy without sacrificing its own policies. By knowing when to give in and knowing when to stand your ground, you’ll be able to keep your customers and employees happy, as well as protect your own bottom line.

Franklin Manuel

Franklin Manuel

Franklin Manuel is a technical designer at Due with an eye for financial blogs. He aspires to help design Due to enable your early retirement.

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