Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Answer is wrong Bob

"The Customer is always right". A phrase I have heard a few times in my life, lately one customer used it and it got under my skin. Not really sure why it bothered me so, but maybe because mainly in my industry the customer is quite often WRONG. I get that the basic principal is to treat the customers with good customer service, but not take it literally. Take it literally and you're business would collapse in on itself as you give away the company trying to please everyone. As I started looking into the phrase I began with the origins:
Originally coined by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store in London in 1909. In the USA it is particularly associated with Marshall Field's department store, Chicago (established in the late 19th century). The store is an icon of the city, although it is set to lose its name in 2006 when, following a takeover, it becomes renamed as Macy's. In 1908 C├ęsar Ritz (1850-1918), the celebrated French hotelier is credited with saying 'Le client n'a jamais tort' - 'The customer is never wrong'. That's not the phrase that people now remember, but it can hardly be said to be any different in meaning to 'the customer is always right'. - Link
So, seeing where it came from kinda helped me to grasp the concept a bit more. But I wanted more and so I found another article that breaks down what is wrong with the phrase here:
He makes 5 arguments for why it fails as a proper maxim:
1: It makes employees unhappy
2: It gives abrasive customer an unfair advantage
3: Some customers are bad for business
4: It results in worse customer service
5: Some customers are just plain wrong
After reading the article it seemed more obvious to me the reality of the customer I was dealing with. He had mentioned to me the company he works for, he spoke with pride as he told me how the founder believed that the customer was always right. That may be true, though I can't seem to find it officially online anywhere. The reality of the mega retail chain he works for and the negative perception many people have of the store seems to line up with the previous articles explanation of the result of the phrase.

Thankfully my frustration with this phrase became a light hearted one upon finding
This site has plenty of customer service stories where the customer is very much not right and usually quite funny. I encourage you to read a page or two. Enjoy!

After reading through a lot of the funny stories, a sense of how well some of those representatives handled the customer service experience emerged. That is the point of all of this. I often say that people are stupid, but individuals can be smart. There are a lot of crazies out there, and most of them have special needs when it comes to customer service. Proper handling of that is key, but not at the expense of employees or your business. Customer service is not a no brainer, it should be taught, some of it is common sense, but not everyone has a lot of good common sense. Treat your employees right and encourage them to treat good (though sometimes challenging) customers right as well.

"Do to others as you would have them do to you." Luke 6:31

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