You have likely heard the saying “the customer is always right.” This may be true in some situations, but this customer-centric idea is out of date and irrelevant. The phrase originally coined by Harry Gordon Selfridge in 1909, meant that the customer is always right in terms of being treated fairly and with respect. However, this phrase has morphed into meaning that the customer is always right about what they want, and companies should give the customer whatever they demand.
This way of thinking is no longer practical or sustainable, especially for small businesses. The statement appears odd, I realize. However, there are several compelling reasons to abandon this century-old corporate motto. Here are just a few reasons why “the customer is always right” isn’t correct.
1. You’re not showing your team members support
When you tell your employees that the customer is always right, you are essentially saying that their opinion and expertise don’t matter. You are also putting the blame on them if something goes wrong, even if it’s not their fault. This creates a toxic work environment and does nothing to promote employee morale or loyalty. There will always be those rude customers, that despite your teams best effort, might not be pleased with the outcome. It’s important to remember that it’s not always your employees fault and they should be supported through these tough situations.
2. It’s not always possible to please everyone
As much as you might want to make every customer happy, it’s simply not possible. There will always be that one customer who is never satisfied no matter what you do. Trying to please them is a waste of time and resources that could be better spent elsewhere. It’s important to know when to cut your losses and move on.
3. It can hurt your bottom line
Giving into every customer demand, no matter how unreasonable, can quickly eat into your profits. At the end of the day, businesses need to make money to stay afloat. If you’re constantly giving away freebies or discounts, you’re not going to be in business for very long. It’s important to find a balance between making your customers happy and making a profit.
4. ‘The customer is right’ is bad for customer service
One of the companies I own is a luxury matchmaking agency, if our matchmakers always agreed with our clients, we’d never be able to help them improve. People come to us because what they were doing wasn’t working, its our job to help them to try what will. Our clients listen to our professional opinion even if they don’t want to hear it because they trust that we have their best interest at heart. This level of customer service can only be achieved when you’re not afraid to give your customers the honest truth, even if it’s not what they want to hear.
5. It’s seriously outdated
This phrase is over 100 years old and it’s time for a new corporate motto. The world has changed a lot in the last century, and so has the way businesses operate. What worked for companies in the early 1900s doesn’t work now. It’s time to come up with a new saying that reflects the current business climate.
6. Not all customers are right for you
Just because someone is a customer, doesn’t mean they are right for your business. There will always be those customers who are never satisfied, no matter what you do. These customers take up a lot of time and resources, and they are usually not worth the effort. It’s important to know when to cut your losses and move on. When it comes to conducting business, obnoxious and unruly clients are impossible to avoid. That does not, however, imply you need to continue dealing with them.
7. Customers are just wrong sometimes
There are times when customers are just plain wrong. They might be misinformed, or they might have unrealistic expectations. Whatever the reason, there will be times when you need to stand your ground and tell them that they are wrong. This might be a difficult discussion to have, but it’s critical to remember that you’re the expert. This shows that you’re confident in your abilities and that you’re not afraid to stand up for your team, your services and what you believe in. Employees must alter their motto from “the customer is always right” to “the customer is sometimes incorrect” in order to combat this.
There are still numerous centuries-old business sayings in use today. They’ve been somewhat ingrained into the minds of company owners, so they become a part of everyday operations. But they should be questioned closely. Find out what makes sense and get rid of everything else to get the most out of your business. Always be kind, but let your customers be wrong when they are.