‘NO’ is for NO-vember

(Part I of II)

Let me start by saying………it’s OK to say:     

I know – it’s easier to SAY than DO, but saying NO is a very powerful tool.  (for me) I’d rather say NO <up-front>, instead of saying YES and then having to tell them NO (after-the-fact).   <insert egg on face: HERE>

You have probably heard the saying, “The customer is always right.” Chances are, as a customer, you felt that this catchy phrase applied to you. But this phrase, popularized by Harry Gordon Selfridge in the early 1900s, is wrong — and wrong for a number of reasons.

The idea behind this phrase is to instill a sense of quality customer support. It can also serve as a training mantra to push employees to make decisions that would benefit customers in hopes of building loyalty and trust. However, I have found that this customer-centric ideology is now outdated and no longer relevant. In fact, it very well could be creating an obstacle on the path to truly exceptional customer service.

The Customer Is Not Always Right: Here Are Five Reasons Why!

1. There are wrong customers.

Simply saying the customer is always right doesn’t make it so. Sometimes customers are wrong and employees need to know how to handle them accordingly. Taking ownership of a mistake that the business is not accountable for is a slippery slope.

Let’s say a customer wants a 100% refund on a sofa chair that costs $500 due to it being uncomfortable. Wouldn’t comfortability be a subjective thing? Is this particular customer right? The customer may simply be looking to get a refund and keep the sofa chair free of charge, since many furniture sellers will not request the customer return the item.

If the customer is always right in the above scenario, the sofa chair business would quickly lose expensive inventory without turning a profit. To combat this, employees need to shift the customer service mantra from “the customer is always right” to “the customer is sometimes wrong.”

2. You are not supporting employees.

Having a “customer is always right” attitude can have a negative impact on the morale of your customer support team. How? There are always going to be unruly and rude customers contacting your customer support team. These customers are hard to manage, and despite your team’s best efforts, a positive outcome is not always possible. If you side with these types of customers, you could be leaving a negative impression on your employees.

Retaining quality employees who you trust and have confidence in should be your top priority. If the customer is always right, employees have to take the abuse of customers with zero support from management. What happens next? Employees move on to opportunities that are not as filled with anxiety. Support your team first and then customers.

3. ‘The customer is right’ is wrong for customer service.

In my experience, having a “customer is right” mantra in place is actually much worse for customer service. Yes, this probably seems a bit odd, but consider this: If you have a customer support team that is constantly berated by customers and has nowhere to turn for upper management support, your team will eventually turn on the company. It is like mutiny aboard a ship.

Working conditions and company culture play a major role in keeping employees happy, productive and efficient. When negativity upsets the balance in the workplace, employees disengage. The negativity then spreads to customers who are among those you wish to satisfy. Not good.

4. Not all customers are worth keeping.

Unruly and rude customers are unavoidable when doing business, but that doesn’t mean you need to keep doing business with them. There are customers that are not worth having, including those who are often unreasonable, don’t pay on time, micromanage, are abusive and take up way too much valuable time.

Time is a very valuable resource and an element commonly overlooked when it comes to handling customers. For instance, if you have an unreasonable, micromanaging customer that is draining company resources, you may lose traction with the customers you actually like.

How do you know when it’s time to let a customer go?  By applying the 80/20 rule, you can identify the customers that are causing the most headaches. This will help you and your team to let go of the “customer is always right” mantra for good.

5. It’s impossible to satisfy everyone.

Using “the customer is always right” in your daily business practices works under the assumption that you can
satisfy every customer 24/7. This is a fool’s errand. Even the largest and most successful brands know this to be impossible, and so should you. People are unique. We all have different tastes in fashion, food, cars, homes, etc., and if you attempt to satisfy every customer’s needs, your business will quickly fail.

Pleasing everyone is also saying that everyone is your customer. This alone is a bad business model. There is a saying, “If everyone is your customer, you don’t have any.” Why? If you want your product or service in the hands of every human on the planet, you have no target audience to market to. It creates chaos.

You don’t need millions of customers, clients and fans to be successful. You need hundreds <or thousands> of true fans.


It’s OK — let customers be wrong.

There are a lot of centuries-old business phrases still in place today. They are in some ways embedded into the mindsets of business owners, thus making them part of daily workflow. But they should be examined closely. Identify what makes sense and discard the rest to ensure you are maximizing the growth and success of your company. Let customers be wrong.

(Part II………coming SOON)