Customer Service – The Customer is always right?

Hutch Morzaria
I have been involved in Customer Service, Telcos & the Internet since its birth, but unfortunately just missed out on the glory days of the ".dot com boom".An experienced manager of people and technology I am very interested in helping businesses and people grow and develop and have been writing about this for years.
Hutch Morzaria
Hutch Morzaria
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customer service

Working in Customer Service and Operations for the majority of my career this mantra has been something that I have very much tried to live my life by.  I have not taken it to extremes by looking at businesses providing me with shoddy service and abraiding them for their lack of service, but have always tried to go the extra mile for my customers not only to earn their loyalty and repeat business, but simply because it just seemed to make sense to me!

“The customer is always right”

Harry Gordon Selfridge (1909) - founder of Selfridge’s department store

“It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.”

Henry Ford

Now I do not want to minimize this in any way, there have been many instances where providing that extra level of service has been extremely difficult and I am proud to say that in more than one instance I have turned a potentially Irate and Desperate customer into a raving fan, simply by going that extra mile.  Providing useful and relevant information to a client experiencing problems during the course of the issue has helped me more than once and sometimes calling back even if you do not have a new update means they know that you have not forgotten about them. Unfortunately there are many instances where the customer is not right and dealing with these situations is a lot more difficult.

Customer Service – It impacts your staff

When customers abuse your staff it is simply wrong.  There is never a justification for this and while you can tell your employees not to take it personally and that they are not mad at them, but rather the company, being called names and made to feel belittled is absolutely unjustifiable.  Your employees are really the key resource in your company.  It is not the what you manufacture, the service you sell or the product you maintain that actually defines your company, but rather the people that make those things and maintain them for you.  They are your true salespeople and your best resource.

When customer service impacts employee morale, your employees need to come first – while it might be difficult and costly to obtain a new customer, it is often significantly more costly to find and train a new employee.  In addition, by siding with the customer to the detriment of your staff, you impact your whole internal culture which has a knock on effect in many other ways.

It impacts your ability to help other customers

Isaac Asimov a great Science Fiction writer created what are now known as the three laws of robotics which are as follows:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

These

same laws can be very much paraphrased in your approach to Customer Service and the client.  There are many businesses that sell multiple lines of service and while some of your customers might only purchase a portion of your total set of services, you cannot and should not treat them differently than other customers.  Correspondingly those “larger” customers should not by default take precedence over your smaller customers.  While money does talk, no one is saying that you should not help and assist them but it should not be at the expense of a smaller business who is also your customer.  Customer Service is about treating all of your customers as equally as possible.

A great example of this is a service business.  This business has a booked, scheduled and paid for installation date for one of their services with small client A.  Unfortunately on the day of the installation, big client B has a service outage and the only  person that can resolve the issue is the same engineer that is going out to client A.  While it might make sense to tell customer A that you need to delay, you need to realize that they have built plans and possibly have other companies arriving for follow on work based on the work that they are expecting you to do.  Your appeasing big client B will not only lose you the business of client A now, but also the follow on business that they might be able to bring to you in the future.

It is against your company policies, procedures and the law

Customers often want the moon and while they might be willing to pay for it, sometimes it is just wrong to give in to their demands.  Company ethics – while they might in some instances seem to be in short supply! – need to drive your decisions and guide you as while the money might make you want to give in, there are very good reasons why you sometimes should not.  A very good example of this is the unfortunate plight of the staff at the News of the World.  This old and established newspaper (while not a high brow newspaper) was unfortunately embroiled in the recent scandal relating to Phone Hacking in the UK and this has not only forced the closure of the paper – impacting all of the employees – but has also escalated into other larger parts of the Rupert Murdoch empire.

What should you do?

When you have a customer that is plain wrong, there really is only one option.  As hard as it may be to hear, they need to stop being your customer.  This means that if you are the owner or manager of a store, they are told – politely – that they are no longer welcome and while this may be hard to do (as they will be undoubtedly irate) it is really the only option that you have available to yourself if you are at all concerned about the long term viability of your business.  While this might have a negative impact on your bottom line in most cases this is a short term impact and if you continue to provide good customer service to the rest of your customers, one that you will be able to get over.  You do obviously always need to keep things like the 80/20 rule in mind and if this one customer accounts for 80% of your business your options are somewhat limited and your best case scenario in that instance is to spend significant efforts in growing your other customers.  This is obviously easier said than done, but I think it is safe to say that this is not a common scenario and if a customer is large enough to account for 80% of your business then they are generally professional enough not to be responsible for the issues mentioned above.

 

Comments


  1. Twitter:
    Hello Hutch,

    You are a fellow who knows his business…it is with dismay that I watch year in, year out, otherwise great businesses being ruined by the very customers that are supposed to ensure the business not only survives but actually proceeds to greater heights.

    When I was actively involved in running a local cafe that I founded years back, I sometimes did have to show some customers the way out especially if I weighed (and discovered that) the trouble they caused was far more than the financial benefits their business ensured.

    Do have a great Sunday…I totally agree with your submission!

    Always,
    Terungwa
    Akaahan Terungwa recently posted..LIVING THE INTERNET LIFESTYLE: 3 THINGS YOU SHOULDN’T MISSMy Profile


    • Twitter:
      Dear Terungwa – thanks for reading and commenting (you’re number 1!) :)
      Customer Service isn’t really rocket science is it? It really does go back to the old saying – treat people the way you want to be treated!

  2. oh relations between customer and service supplier is maybe the most complicated topic of managing, writing and implementation in every business. So i’m happy to read your elaboration on this topic and it is very interesting unconventional approach on the topic. Maybe i really like this way because sometimes it is almost impossible to satisfied customer, they ask for the moon you somehow succeeds to brig the moon to them and they say it is little to much grey. :)

  3. Enzo Testa says:

    I may have to disagree with you on this one. “The customer is always right”. I have worked in retail for 27 years and had my share of run-ins with “the customer”. I can honestly say that man times the customer is not always right. The majority are great but it’s those few that spoil it for the rest.
    Take care.


  4. Twitter:
    Ugh! This REALLY hits home for me. I used to work in a shop in a mall inside a casino on the Las Vegas Strip. So anyone who knows anything about Las Vegas it is anything goes. It is Pleasure Island for adults. And folks come here and think they can do whatever they want. Things that they would not do back home is perfectly acceptable here. My fellow employees and I took SO much abuse from the customers who thought we were there for their entertainment. The owner of the company would always tell us we had to have exceptional customer service always. Little did he understand the abuse we took.
    Is the customer always right? Hard to say. Depends on whose eyes you see it through.
    But in this day and age of Yelp and Twitter and everything, a few negative reviews can destroy a company. With so many people out of work it is easy to find someone to replace me for $10 an hour that will take the abuse for a while until they have had enough as well.
    Troy S. recently posted..#982 LegoMy Profile


  5. Twitter:
    It is no doubt that the customer is always right, i have seen – not just heard – big business closed down because they have no customer service! You would always see employers talking down their customer in front of others.
    Frank Joseph recently posted..Using Forex Signals to Make Money from Currency TradingMy Profile


  6. Twitter:
    Hey Hutch,
    Nice post and Yes, relation between customer and supplier is very important. Good customer service is very important for any business growth and if they have not good service then customer may switch to another supplier. Thanks for sharing this post. I learned lots of good stuff after reading this post.
    Sudipto recently posted..Flappy Bird FOR PC / Computer / WINDOWS 7/8, MAC AndroidMy Profile


  7. Twitter:
    Satisfied customers = successful company! That’s why customer services is a must. Every business has it’s own terms and conditions, if customers are not satisfied terms accepted by themselves save the company from lots of troubles.
    I. C. Daniel recently posted..Best Online Services for Checking Content PlagiarismMy Profile


  8. Twitter:
    Fantastic guide you have given about Customer Services, I liked it!
    Enstine Muki recently posted..WhatsApp for PC or WhatsApp for Computer DownloadMy Profile


  9. Twitter:
    Hello Hutch,

    Thanks for sharing your insights. On my website I offer a lot of free products, but I also sell an eBook and it doesn’t matter if my customers are getting the free stuff, or buying the book, they are my customer and I try to take care of them as well as possible. Now, I have turned a few people away because they were just simply being rude, but most interactions I’ve had have been very positive. Some customers end up being a financial loss for me (because I spend a lot of time working with them), but hopefully some of them will come back and become paying customers because I treated them well and helped them have a better reunion. Thanks for the reminder on excellent customer service

    All the best,
    Laura
    Laura recently posted..Family Reunion IdeasMy Profile


  10. Twitter:
    Employee is always right, without customer satisfaction our business can’t do well. If the customer is not satisfied with our business or products, we should improve that.
    Prakash recently posted..Bluestacks Offline Installer for Windows 7/8/XP/ MAC/ PC Download FreeMy Profile

  11. The customer is right when their expectations are right. Look at Dyson, the customers didn’t want see-through vacuum cleaners, now he’s sold millions of them. If the customer doesn’t know what to expect then go with your gut feeling.
    Adam recently posted..High PR CommentLuv Dofollow Blogs ListMy Profile


  12. Twitter:
    Fantastic make suggestions possess offered concerning Consumer Providers, When i liked it! thanks for sharing this informative post with us. :D
    Frank Joseph recently posted..Download Whatsapp for PC (Whatsapp for Windows 7/8/XP)My Profile

  13. You covered every angle with this write up. I agree “there have been many instances where providing that extra level of service has been extremely difficult.” I have observe this in top notch and fast food restaurants. The waiter or waitress gives top notch service and still get stiffed on the tip.
    Sometimes I think the term “customer is always right.” should be changed to “The customer is human, just give him/her what she requests to keep the peace.” All things considered with the 80/20 rule in mind of course.
    James recently posted..Different Strokes for Different FolksMy Profile


  14. Twitter:
    Hello Hutch, Obviously Patience is the number one most essential thing when working with customers and another most effective thing is smile. Even if you are on the phone the people can always notice that you smile, they feel that you think about them and they will never be aggressive in reply. Anyway … thanks for your helpful share.
    somon recently posted..Pou for PC or windows 8 7 XP Mac computer freeMy Profile


  15. Twitter:
    Awesome article for the word press in search engine optimization is very easy to use & read this article. Thanks for sharing. :D
    Frank Joseph recently posted..Download iMovie for Windows (iMovie for PC 7/8/XP)My Profile


  16. Twitter:
    Thank for this article. Client has always right!
    marc.donovan recently posted..WhatsApp for PC or WhatsApp for Computer DownloadMy Profile

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