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The Customer is NEVER Right!!!

By on August 19, 2013 in

I figured I’d attract a few eyeballs with that one. Well, at least two – Hi Mom!

If you read my other post, “Don’t Take The High Road,” you know that I proposed that we are a world of extremes. The Customer is Always Right is one such extreme. And in the right context, early 20th century retail commerce, it was extremely timely. The customer existed in a Caveat Emptor World and the phrase was both revolutionary and visionary. Unfortunately, taken literally and without proper context it can be disastrous for an organization.

The Customer Is ALWAYS Right is not a fact. And neither is The Customer Is NEVER Right. Gravity, as it turns out, is a fact. Boy sees rope, boy swings on rope, boy lets go of rope and realizes he’s twelve feet above ground once covered by water, boy sees  stars around his head and numerous medical professionals later, boy is okay — gravity is once again proven to be a fact!! But back to the Customer is Always and Never Right.

Both are true in the right context. In the former, if we assume that we’re dealing with the “Right Customer” then The Right Customer is Always Right. But that requires that we prove our assumption to be correct and that we know who the Right Customer is. In the latter, if we assume that we’re dealing with the “Wrong Customer” then The Wrong Customer is NEVER Right.

Case in point:

A long time ago I was watching a TV show about super fancy sports cars. I grabbed my Sports Car Fund (aka coin jar) and counted my coins as I watched the show. At one point, the show’s host asked a very interesting question, “How much do gas and tires cost?” The man showing the car paused for a second and said, “if you have to ask then you probably shouldn’t buy this car.”

Storms ceased. Wars ended. Hunger, poverty and disease were vanquished; all was great with the world!

Was the statement elitist? Nah. Conceited? Not really. Would his response elicit significant, negative criticism? Probably. Did it bother me? Nope. Did it insult me? Not at all. Neither the host of the show nor I were the Right Customer. I was many coins away from buying the poster let along the actual car. I finished the show, grabbed my coins and bought myself a chocolate doughnut. You thought I was going to say that I parlayed my coins into a mass fortune and now drive different colored sports cars each day of the week, didn’t you? Sorry. Immediate Gratification won many a battle in my youth.

If someone can say that the Customer is ALWAYS Right then I can say that the Customer is NEVER Right; both statements are correct under the proper assumptions. As leaders, entrepreneurs, managers and employees we have to focus on what matters and on the customer and projects that make sense. Devoting time on the wrong customers will frustrate all parties and will more than likely alienate the right customers (and the best employees).

Know thy “right” customer because:

  1. It results in better customer service  – more time for the “right” customers
  2. It results in happier employees – helping the “wrong” customers is stressful and self defeating
  3. It improves profitability – the proverbial 80-20 Rule; but do you really need convincing?

By the way, you may be wondering why the boy swung on a rope twelve feet above ground once covered by water? If you have to ask, don’t have children, especially “boys!” You’re the wrong customer. The answer is simple – it’s what boys do! Someone should have cut down the rope or pumped water into the lake!!

Success requires doing. We help companies DO.

Continues success…


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