Is the Customer Always Right?


Popularized by Harry Gordon Selfridge in the early 1900s, the catchy phrase “The customer is always right” is wrong for a number of reasons. 

The popular tagline is so widely recognized that the happiness of a customer is perceived to be vital to business success. After over a century of use and misuse, many companies have been blasting out this well-intended but misdirected motto wherever they can. 

However, any customer-service employee can testify to the fact that consumers are increasingly pushing boundaries that prompt employees to break the rules. Often threatening to post derogatory customer service reports, consumers force their unreasonable requests into an entitled reality. 

This type of consumer leaves customer service employees miserable as the line between rational experiences and absurd demands are continuously crossed. 

Some businesses have started to “fire” their worst customers by compiling lists of secretly banned customers and drifting away from another overly-quoted motto- the more customers, the better. 

But across almost every industry, businesses are deciding that the customer isn’t always right. Thinking otherwise will cause service to be delivered with a scowl. Put your employees first and then watch them put customers first; happy employees often equal happy customers. 

Intersections Between Customer and Employee Satisfaction

When bosses try to enforce a rigid “customer is always right” mentality, they inherently create teams of winners and losers. It signals that if the customer is always right, the employee must always be wrong. 

And it’s not just general protocol that’s at stake. Bosses who put their customers before their employees often see moral problems that lead to lower productivity and poor customer service. 

But as 2020 was the year of change, 2021 is proving to be the year of the worker. 

We don’t have a shortage of labor, we have a shortage of businesses who are willing to prioritize their employees over their bottom line. The power struggle between employee and customer has shifted towards the worker as businesses are prioritizing their workforce over difficult customers. 

Among the avalanche of changes that workers faced in 2020, the shift to remote work is one of the most considerable. Very quickly, it was proven to employees in almost any industry that their job can be done remotely. For the first time, they could shift their schedules to fit their family’s needs, take afternoon walks on their lunch breaks- and the department didn’t fall apart as leadership may have once claimed. 

Within the workplace, some employers are prioritizing mental health. Capped working hours, wellness initiatives, and counseling are becoming the norm. And while individual policies differ, it’s become essential to make the effort for employees. Checking in may seem like a basic human gesture, for many industries, this change is a radical act.  

As flexibility and autonomy have taken center stage within the workforce, companies that are unwilling to adopt these practices could face serious challenges ahead. Businesses who refuse to adopt more flexible practices may see their talent pool suffer and lose any competitive edge they previously held as a result. 

However, a raft of services are available to help businesses find a balance between support and supply. By creating a trusted environment for employees, businesses can see their workforce return and their customers will follow. Businesses have been proven to thrive when they empower their employees on behalf of the brand. 

Gain the insight you need to make the changes that count. Track and digitize key metrics for your company to take the headache out of today’s business equation by scheduling your free demo with Fenix Verify today. 

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