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Here’s Why the Customer Isn’t Always Right

Updated: Mar 19

The following is an article “Here’s Why the Customer Isn’t Always Right” by Marc Primo.


There are many things we can learn from Swiss hotelier César Ritz who first coined the phrase “the customer is always right”. Soon many entrepreneurs followed this maxim including Harry Gordon Selfridge who served as chairman of his Oxford Street department store for 20 years and introduced the concept of shopping as a form of leisure rather than a necessity. To this day, that motto continues to be true for many service-oriented businesses. However, with the changing trends in consumer relations and technology, “the customer is always right” has become quite stale and not always applicable. Why? Here are some good reasons.


There is no doubt that excellent customer service should always remain as one of the top priorities for companies. It builds relationships with customers while giving them a sense of satisfaction in a product or service that usually translates to patronage. Sometimes though, acknowledging that the customer is “always” right may be bad for business altogether.

Here are five reasons that can prove why companies should think twice before applying this ancient business tenet.


It’s not pro-employee. One of the most common complaints made by retail employees is how management seems to always favor customers even though they are sticking to protocol and doing their jobs. One meme from a department store employee relayed this sentiment the best when she stated: “It’s a real bummer when a customer is being difficult and you stick with company policy. Then they call over a manager who in two seconds, bypasses all policies and makes you look stupid for doing your job”. Business owners do not want their employees to think that management does not care for them and one of the ways to show this is to defend your employees from unreasonable customers. Strike the perfect balance between reason and favor when you deal with a employee-customer dispute. Regularly training them on proper customer etiquette and how to manage expectations will also help your business big time. This way, employees don’t feel miserable about their jobs and performances when a grumpy customer walks into the store.


Not all customers are good customers. There will always be an exception to every rule and not all of your customers will be ideal ones who’ll understand how the business works. With that, management not only has the power to fire erring employees but rude and bad customers as well. By cancelling services, contracts or simply denying them what they demand when they are being unreasonable, terminating a customer sometimes is necessary. Aside from placing too much importance on profit and the pursuit for a larger customer base, showing your people you value respect and dignity over money places your brand on top of people’s minds. You have to carefully review incident reports on customer complaints and make sound judgements especially these days when customer feedback is one social media post away. Always draft potential crisis statements you can issue the public or media in anticipated cases when the customer is on the wrong side of the argument. Remember that there’s no rule sparing any business from the wrath of unreasonable customers.


It doesn’t promote fairness. Abusive customers have long used this phrase as an excuse to steer things their way, which only leads to more work and more problems for you. There is nothing right when you give better advantage to people who are wrong and punish good employees who are only doing their jobs. Being nice is a two-way street and good customer service deserves an equally acceptable response or acknowledgement from your customers and management. Always take note that your employees should know better about the business than your customers so they can best manage the expectations of even the most irate ones. Customers have no idea how to run your business so don’t let them. Instead, explain to them that sometimes things don’t go as planned and that there are solutions in place to rectify unwanted situations and inconveniences. If they remain stubborn about their demands, exercise your business knowledge to come up with the right decision that will be fair to all.

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