Is the customer always right?

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends” – Walt Disney  

What do you think?  Is the customer ALWAYS right?  Many pundits claim this as a basic tenet of business.  Trainers drill into high customer contact people (HCCPs), the ones that actually get to deal with customers, the idea that the customer is to be taken care of.  The ‘customer is always right’.  The intention is good, to provide excellent customer service and satisfy the customer.  

The problem with this belief is the customer isn’t always right. Many customers think they are the expert.  Thanks to the Google, some patients now come to their doctor with their symptoms, the diagnosis, and the treatment.  They think they are the doctor.  This can be dangerous in the health care industry when the patient thinks they are the expert.  I have experienced a version of this with some clients.  They come to me and say, “Mary is a problem, you need to fix her, she needs some assertiveness training.”  They have made the diagnosis and supplied the remedy.  Often, the real problem is the manager, not Mary, and I have to push back and reframe the work to be done.   

Secondly, you don’t want every customer.  Some customers are not the kind of customer you designed your business for. Therefore, they are not a ‘good’ customer.  The marketing saying is, “Not all meat is good meat.”  And this applies to customers.  It doesn’t mean the customer is ‘bad’.  Just that this particular customer is a bad fit you’re your business.  High maintenance customers demand Tiffany level service and want to pay Walmart prices.   These customers drain your resources and frustrate your employees.  They will never be satisfied.  Get rid of them!  

Why is it important to know who you want to help?  To know who your ideal customer is.  There are all kinds of customers out there.  Good ones, bad ones, and just plain average ones.  The definition of these categories depends on you and what you are selling.  If you are selling cheap stuff, bargain basement deals, you will attract customers of like mind.  If you are selling an illusive dream, a lifestyle of the rich and famous, you will attract similar types.  Build your product around the kind of customer you want to serve.