The Customer is Always Right…

The classic golden rule of customer service.

Also, the most debated and misunderstood rule in the industry too.

Depending on who you ask, this statement is either the ultimate truth or a mantra that might be permanently hurting your business.

Today, we break down this rule and see how it holds up to 2020 customer service standards.

The Origin of The Customer is Always Right

The origins of this phrase date back to the 1900s.

The phrase is currently credited to Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founders of a department store in London. The point of this rule was to advocate for giving weight to customer complaints and feedback.

At the time, the rule was a fresh of fresh air and seen as a significant innovation in customer service.

The rule has stuck around to modern times and is often praised and criticized by customer service experts.

Criticism against The Customer is Always Right

Many of the misconceptions about this statement come from taking it literally.

The reality is that the customer is not literally ALWAYS right.

There will be cases where the customer is overstepping personal boundaries, abusing employees, abusing other customers or trying to rip off your business.

Some critiques against The Customer is Always Right include:

  • It allows customers to abuse employees, reducing employee morale
  • It allows customers to abuse other customers, reducing the loyalty of customers who are being abused
  • It can result in worse customer service for other customers
  • Can allow some customers to rip-off your business
  • Some customers can be bad for your business and be a net negative to your revenue
  • It can make you lose focus of your core audience by trying to please everyone

How to approach the saying

The truth is that The Customer is Always Right is more of a figurative motto rather than a literal golden rule.

For example, let’s take the first half of the saying, The Customer. Most people think this refers to all of your customers.

But in this case, you’ll have to ask yourself, who is your ideal customer? What does your core audience look like? What are their interests? What needs or problems do they have that your product or service can solve?

For example, let’s say that your company makes knives for professional chefs and butchers. Should you put maximum importance on the feedback you receive from casual cooks?

Not really.

But the feedback and complaints from professional chefs and butchers hold much more value to your business. They are your true Customer.

Delighting your core customer base should always be a top priority for your business.

Is your ideally customer someone who berates your employees? Or someone who berates your other customers? Or someone who tries to rip you off? We hope not!

Benefits of The Customer is Always Right

There are multiple benefits that come with The Customer is Always Right approach when applied correctly, as explained earlier.

Customers make your business

Your core customers are your business. Without them and their loyalty, you could be shutting down your office in just a few days.

Their feedback and complaints should be of utmost priority to your business. After all, if you don’t do this, a competitor will. And a competitor stealing away your core customer base is far from ideal.

Make sure you are implementing several strategies that help you solve and accommodate customer feedback and complaints faster and more effectively.

Customer backlash is real and can hurt your business

In the worst of scenarios, your core customer base can turn against you if you ignore their feedback for too long. And customer backlash can take a lot of time and money to fix.

Think about Apple Maps, New Coke, Netflix’s canceled Qwikster spinoff and many other products that were not in line with the expectations of the company’s core audience.

Was their feedback taken into consideration when developing such products? Probably not to the extent that they should have.

This expensive mistake has already been made by multiple companies around the world, don’t feel the need to make it yourself.

It can help you discover new revenue avenues

Just like how customer feedback and complaints can help alleviate pain points in your customer base. They can also help you identify new opportunities for new product lines and new revenue sources.

Let’s go back to that example of your knives company. Through talking to your core customers you hear that they love your knives, but that when used in prolonged periods fo time they become quite uncomfortable.

This could be a signal for demand within your customer base for knives with improved ergonomics. You could then develop, produce and sell this design at a premium price, creating a new avenue for revenue for your business.

The Customer is Always Right in the 2020s

Communications with your customers have only gotten more and more personal leading up to this decade. From phone calls to email, live chat, texting, social media and much more.

As your customer communications evolve, so does the scope of The Customer is Always Right.

While the principles stay the same, you will need to make new considerations:

  • Social Media: Are you monitoring social media conversations about your product or business? How are you managing negative comments or reviews for your business? Is your objective to just get people to remove their comments or to truly delight them?
  • Better communication channels: On that note, are you making it easy for your customers to contact you? Are you quick to respond to comments on social media? What about emails? Are you integrating a live chat into your website for faster responses?
  • Capture more feedback: Are you using tools to collect additional customer feedback? Are you using a CRM to identify your core customers and generating insights based on their customer data? How about browser recordings? Are you looking at how your high-importance customers navigate your website or app?

Closing Thoughts

When implemented correctly, The Customer is Always Right is as relevant as ever.

Moreso if you consider how much customer feedback we can draw from insights based on digital data.

But first steps first, have you identified who’s your ideal customer? If you havent, you can read our guide on defining your target market