When Customers Are Not Always Right

You’ve probably heard of the saying “The customers are always right”, which has become a well-known term that is used in almost every business.

So where does the phrase come from? It was originally from a gentleman by the name of Harry Gordon Selfridge who was behind the Selfridge department stores in London. It was in 1899 and he really wanted to help his staff focus on helping the customer and pioneering a whole new level of customer service.

So is this statement still relevant for today’s businesses in today’s environment?

It depends.  

It reminds me of one of our customer I was talking to just the other day and he was saying that he was moving heaven and earth for a particular customer to get an order out. So I asked him to tell me a little more about the customer.

As it turns out, this customer was always squeezing his margin and always paying late. So I asked why he was always moving heaven and earth for this guy?

Surely there are better customers you could be spending your time on?

You see sometimes we spend too much time with the wrong customers instead of the right ones.  So if you believe the “customer is always right’ as it reads you will find yourself jumping over hurdles to fix the problems of every customer including those who only seem to be bringing you problems. Something’s wrong with that story, surely?

The right customer is right.

On the other hand, you probably have some customers who are generally great to deal with, pay on time, do regular business with you and refer your business to others. These are the customers who are worth listening to as their opinions are valuable. If they have some questions or concerns or a complaint, you want to be sorting that out as legitimate feedback on your business. This type of customer is right.

You also do not want to be waiting for them to complain, and actually be proactive in talking with these types of ‘right’ customers because the right customers have a lot to say about your business.

So in conclusion, by responding to the right customers and communicating with them proactively and rephrasing ‘The customer is always right” to “The right customer is always right” can help shape your business.