I have been asked the question ‘Is the customer always right?’ countless times, and when I respond NO, the askers are without fail taken aback. Quite taken aback actually, of the mouth agape variety. But YES indeed contrary to old age belief, the customer is NOT always right.
We’ve continuously been taught in the past and made to believe that the customer is always right, and the customer service school of life has continued to embed that belief. But let’s just take a step back and think about it…….. are they always right? Really truly, is the customer always right?
Staff who interact frequently with customers will tell you that in very many instances the customer is wrong. The customer may either have incorrect information, or may in some cases have expectations that are out of this world, like say for example, expecting to waltz to the front of an already existing queue and get quick service with the expectation that the serving staff should know they are a very important person.
Very often as well, customers are quite crafty and looking for ways in which to get away with free products or services, and will cause a mighty ruckus in an attempt to get away with as much as they can for as little payment as possible or not at all. Sometimes too, customers may be misinformed about service offers, product deliverables, service fees, guidelines, timings etc.
So NO, the customer isn’t always right.
So now that that’s out of the way, and we’ve established clearly that yes, despite that little mantra in our heads, the customer isn’t always right as per the commonly decreed philosophy, and is often incorrect in assumptions and judgements, what next?
The critical questions still remain……… Does the incorrect customer deserve to be listened to? Does the incorrect customer deserve our patience? Does the incorrect customer’s point of view deserve a hearing? Is the incorrect customer still the source of business revenue both current and potential?
Seeing as to it that the common answer to all these questions still remains an emphatic YES, the only reasonable proposal in the event of a challenging customer situation, is to indeed acknowledge that the customer isn’t right but is still an important customer anyway, and then to  proceed to provide excellent customer service. It is undeniably more often than not, that that unreasonable customer will perform a complete turnaround when faced with a respectful response to their ranting and raving. Their fighting spirit will deflate for there’ll be no paring opponent with whom to clash glinting swords.
So if we are to go by Dr. Phil McGraw’s philosophy captured in his award winning book Life Strategies, we need to stop getting our knickers in a twist about  ‘who’s right or what’s right’ and move beyond that to actually ‘do what works and do what matters’.

I therefore now throw down the gauntlet that the next time you have that challenging customer situation unfolding, to quickly think – what is it that works and what is it that matters the most? Focus on that and the outcome will undoubtedly be win-win.