Is the Customer Always Right?

Closeup portrait of angry grumpy middle-aged man looking from unIn a word. No.

I do believe that customers are entitled to every effort and beyond to ensure that their investment in a given purchase is honored diligently by those selling the goods and services. There have been times when I have fallen on the sword at a loss to make sure that a customer who came to me in good faith was not disappointed. This is the right thing to do and at times is a cost of doing business overall. Customers must get what they paid for and it should come with a certain graciousness from the merchant. After all, customers are the reason our businesses exist.

Additionally, there are times when it is simply more practical to appease an unhappy camper than it is to spend too much time dealing with the situation.

However, there is an old adage in the consumer market place for the “buyer to beware,” and at the same time I would suggest that this applies to the seller as well.

The rules of the free market apply equally to both sides of the business counter. Yes, customers have the right to take their business elsewhere if you cannot satisfy their needs. At the same time, a private purveyor of goods and services is under no obligation to match unreasonable prices or agree to high demands as part of a sale.

There are customers masquerading under such seemingly innocuous terms such as “value seekers” and “deal getters” who more accurately are malcontents who will suck the blood right out of your business. They destroy the morale of your staff and steal your company’s resources from your otherwise loyal and repeat customers.

This may sound like sacrilege to the business-seminar loving, latte sipping, customer management gurus out there; but the truth is that some customers are just not worth having.

This is especially true for retailers who are often asked to match prices from various sources on the internet.

“I can get it for less on the internet but I’d really rather deal with someone local like you,” are not words coming from someone who is trying to do you a favor.

The translation of, “I’d rather deal with you…” is:

“I want to ask fifty million questions about the product to a trained sales staff, I want to demo the product in a brick and mortar store, and I want to be able to return the product to a reputable and known establishment if it doesn’t work. However, I still want the same cheap internet price.”

One way of heading off this type of situation is to decide what kind of business you intend to be.

I get criticized for saying this but I have often maintained that you can gear your company to be a price leader or to offer customized service and support; but you cannot do both. There may be a few exceptions for large companies that can split their brand identities and there are times when we have to be flexible, however, as a general rule I do not subscribe to the notion that all business is good business.

To be a price leader you need to move volume quickly and that is hard to do when you are also offering service and support. By the same token, if you are set up for customized service and support, price shoppers devour your time trying to negotiate deals over flaky projects that you should not want to be representative of your company’s services from the start.

When it comes right down to it business relationships are very similar to friendships or love interests. The best relationships are two-way streets. Do exceptionally right by your customers and expect fair compensation and respect in return. Stand up for who you are and don’t get bullied into serving some abstract ideal about pleasing customers if it ultimately comes at a loss for you.

2 thoughts on “Is the Customer Always Right?

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