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The Customer Is(n't) Always Right

To think otherwise is dangerous...

The Customer Is(n't) Always Right

"The customer is always right."  That is an age old adage in the customer service world.  You have undoubtedly heard it countless times in your life, probably on both sides of the coin.  Either you have worked in a customer facing role and were indoctrinated with that mantra of making everyone happy at all costs, or you were a consumer who felt that you did not receive the treatment you were entitled to and invoked this as your rallying cry when demanding to speak with a manger.

There is nothing wrong with setting out to deliver the highest level of customer service to those who patronize your establishment, that is in essence a very sound business practice.  A happy customer comes back more often, spends more money on average, and when exceptionally pleased will go so far as to refer their friends and family.  No one wants to frequent an establishment for where the employees have a disdain for the very people who pay their salaries (except for maybe one or two local take out spots where the food is worth the attitude).  Many companies have extensive training on how to provide the best possible service for their clients, and are world renowned for how effectively they deliver on this principle. There will be no name dropping here but for anyone who has booked travel with certain hotel chains using certain credit cards, you know exactly what that level of service looks like.

As a customer as well, one should not expect to settle for anything less than the best possible service when parting with your hard earned dollars.  Here, however, is where this subject becomes murky. This is an era where no one takes any responsibility for their own actions and is quick to hold everyone else accountable for their actions.  We have lawsuits for coffee being too hot, jaywalkers getting hit by cars while crossing freeways they had no business being on, and people feeling like their boss discriminated against them for, dare I say it, asking them to actually show up and work the job they were hired for. This ties in with a sense of entitlement about customer service the likes of which society has never before known.

If you walk into the local coffee shop and order latte with extra foam only to be told there is a limit on foam heights, maybe that is worth speaking to a manager.  Or the local steakhouse tells you that they are sorry they overcooked your $35 Porterhouse but there is nothing they can do about it except charge you full price so you decide to take to Yelp and write the most scathing review possible to warn others of the potential for a bad experience and wasted money.  Not many would disagree that these are instances where better judgment and customer service skills could have been employed.

Stretch that to a hotel guest who dials up the concierge and asks for room service to send up a platter of prescription drugs with a side of female companionship (and sure many might oblige for a few extra dollars) and is so outraged when their request is declined that they track down the Hotel Manager, District Manager, or CEO to launch a campaign of character assassination against that associate and demand they be fired for failing to make their stay memorable.  Or the notoriously impatient soccer mom who has never worked a day in her life when she gets stuck on a line at lunch time with only cashier open when she has a life or death date with her manicurist and now morphs into a venom spewing reptile who wants all of the other people in line to jump on her bandwagon of belittling and berating this poor minimum wage employee who is just trying to do the best they can with the hand they were dealt.

"I want to speak to your boss" and "I will make sure you get fired for this" have become more commonplace in our society today than they ever have before.  With all of the technology and conveniences that come with it, some have forgotten that there are still physical limitations to the types of requests that can be accommodated and the time frames that may be associated with that resolution.  Rather than take a step back and appreciate the effort put forth, the reaction is to lash out with threats and verbal abuse as a way of making sure the customer is right.

Next time you are out and about, dealing with the people who "serve" you on a daily basis, take a second to pause when you don't get your way.  If possible, put yourself in their shoes.  Then ask yourself if the reaction you are waiting to pull out of your back pocket is warranted and justified.  If you still think it is, wait for the day your son/daughter, brother/sister, is in that employees shoes and they have to deal with you and your archaic belief that the customer is ALWAYS right.  Nothing is absolute in life, no one is infallible, especially you.

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Matthew Harms
New York, NY
 

www.penforhirenyc.com

matthew.harms81@gmail.com