This is a guest post by Nader Mowlaee
You must have heard this phrase before: “The customer is always right.” And chances are you have assumed that it applies to everyone and every business. However, based on my experience, there are three situations where this is not the case. In this article, I would like to share those situations with you so you won’t be negatively affected by misplaced beliefs or false expectations.
The idea or purpose behind this saying is to improve the quality of service we offer to everyone, whether they are purchasing products or services from us (external customers) or working on the same team as us (internal customers). However, over the last few years, I’ve seen many cases where internal and external customers have quoted this phrase to bend the truth a bit or break a rule. Here are three situations where the idea of, “the customer is always right,” is wrong.
1. When Customer Requests Put You in a Compromising Position Ethically
Changing how you operate to make one customer happy is not suitable for business profitability and long-term sustainability. Bending your business’ best practices or compromising your relationship with your staff members will set unwanted patterns and unwelcome expectations. This will unquestionably result in unnecessary workplace tension.
If we continue to operate our business by the ideology that the customer is always right, we set ourselves up for failure, especially when it comes to maintaining camaraderie in the workplace. Our employees are the lifeline of our businesses, and the mutual trust and friendship among them directly impact our business bottom line and performance.
2. When Customers Seek an Unfair Advantage They Don’t Deserve
Let’s be frank about this: We have all faced abusive customers. Recently we have even started to call them “Karens.” You know, you cannot satisfy that one individual no matter how hard you try to give them whatever they want. The sad reality is that some people are not friendly. Some people are out there to exploit you or cheat you as much as they possibly can, and they just don’t deserve your business.
Karens do not keep your business’ best interest in mind, and why should they? They only want the best deal, and it’s often impossible to give them what they want. This isn’t always the cheapest product or service, but usually an offer you cannot possibly make without compromising your position or jeopardizing the business.
3. When the Customer Is Just Flat-Out Wrong
We live in a “prosumer” society. A prosumer is a person who consumes and produces. Prosumers have access to an abundance of information. They are more educated than ever, and in a post-pandemic world, the level of distrust in today’s business world is at an all-time high. There is also an abundance of misinformation, and some customers may request something flat-out wrong.
Often this type of customer has done all the right things to gather information before inquiring about your product or service without knowing how viable their information sources are. This has misshapen their expectations or resulted in faulty logic. In such situations, it is up to us, as leaders and business operators, to provide the right resources and educate our customers on their realistic options.
So, next time you’re dealing with a customer, keep these situations in mind so that you’re able to manage their expectations and your business’ best interests effectively. You’ll be better off in the long run.
About Nader Mowlaee:
Nader is a career coach who believes you can get everything you want in life if you just help enough other people get what they want. He is inspired by motivating confidence in engineers and helping them take calculated actions to move forward towards their career and life goals. His mission is to enable engineers to break away from their fears and create the ideal lives and careers they desire. You can learn more about Nader through his LinkedIn account.
We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share about when you think customers are not always right.
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To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success