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Home » Run Your Business

Is the customer always right?

Sydney Apple Store Genius Bar
This is a guest post by Yolanda Facio from Red Hot Momentum.

Yeah right.

Here’s the thing, it all started in the very, very early 1900’s like 1908-ish. Marshall Field’s department store in Chicago began to use the mantra “the customer is always right” as a marketing tactic. The idea was that at Marshall Field’s the customer was always right and, of course, the place you wanted to shop.

So how did a marketing slogan become a mantra for customer service? And more importantly, why?

I don’t have an answer. But I’m going to assume that over time stories change, meanings change and it simply stuck. Perhaps it’s the fact that customers outweigh shop owners in number and customers like the slogan because it takes their side.

Whatever the reason, it’s false thinking.

Sure, you might think it matters. You might think that if you don’t please every customer you can’t possibly be in business. You might even think that it is an undocumented customer service law that says you must make customers happy.

I’m here to tell you, stop now. Stop thinking that if you go above and beyond for every customer your business will stand out, be the best, etc.

Not true.

The more narrowly focused your business the more successful. Narrowly focused businesses don’t abide by the general rule ‘the customer is always right’. Instead they abide by a much more sophisticated rule: my ideal customer deserves a 110% everyone else can, well, leave.

There are lots of customers who make it their goal to get as much as they can for as little as they can. Want to be miserable? Then take on this customer, make them right, give them everything they think they deserve. I guarantee you’ll be miserable in no time.

Why not reduce the misery? Why not assume that the business owner is always right?

The business owner is always right when he/she determines who his ideal customer is and deals only with them. The business owner is always right when he/she demands that customers obey the rules of doing business with them.

Scary? Sure it is at first. But you can’t serve everyone, why would you want to. You can’t make everyone happy, why would you want to.

Look I’m not saying that if a real problem exists you shouldn’t do what is necessary to make a customer whole. What I am saying is that the customer isn’t always right for you and your business.

If you charge premium prices, a customer looking to score a deal isn’t for you. If they came to your business trying to negotiate pricing with you, would they be right? And, if they are, what message is that sending to every other customer who just paid full pop?

If you provide an upscale service will you do so at Walmart prices just because one person complains?

If you work on Bentleys, are you going to service a Chevy just because they showed up?

The reality is this: the customer isn’t always right… for you.

That’s right, it is ultimately about you. You are the core of your business. You are at the heart of your business.

My customers keep coming back because they know what to expect. They know that no matter what I will tell them exactly as it is, infused with as much humor as I can manage because nothing, no situation, is perfect. They expect to get the “character” that is Yolanda, along with great service and above and beyond care.

Yesterday, I went to pick up a customer’s Boxster at his office. His office manager said something that made me laugh out loud. He came out of his office laughing, “I knew you were here!” I said, “was it that no so subtle cackle of a laugh.” He laughed and said, “and that is why we love you!”

I’m not one to hold in my laughter… why? It’s me! It’s really healthy. And, more importantly, it indicates to people around me that I love what I’m doing and I’m having a great day.

Yes, that is why they love me.

And it is exactly how your customers should feel about you.

I the customer always right, maybe, but absolutely not every customer is right for you!

Weigh-in – Do you think the customer is always right? Please enter your thoughts and comments below.

Yolanda Facio will help you take charge of your business and life. If you are ready to Join the “take charge” Revolution then you need thE mEAniE mAnifEsto! Get your Free copy HERE!