Customer is Always Right: Truth or Fallacy

by Jemiyotan Arioritsebafor

The phrase “customer is always right” was coined in the early 1900s to propel business owners to go the extra mile in their service delivery. It has since become a signature phrase in the business world. 

But how valid is this ideology today? Should it even be taken literally? What impact does it have on employees and businesses? Should businesses be so inflexible about fulfilling customers’ every whim?

In this article, we will discuss why businesses adopt the “customer is always right” mindset, the problems associated with it and whether businesses in Nigeria should adhere to it.

Why Businesses Operate by the Mantra; “Customer is Always Right”

As you and I know, providing superior customer service is at the heart of every successful business.

Nigerians, understanding this necessity, have begun to utilize customer support agents extensively, ensuring they operate by this mantra. 

This is because they have reasons to believe that the customer is always right. 

Here are some of these reasons why the customer is always right.

  1. It gives companies a competitive advantage 

One of the primary reasons why the customer is always right is because it gives companies a competitive advantage. 

Customers, after having a few bad experiences with a company, usually switch to its competitor.

In a situation with little difference in competitors’ offerings, providing exceptional customer service is the next best thing.

  1. It increases customer satisfaction

When employees employ the “customer is always right” mindset in their service delivery, it allows them to put the customer first.

This makes the customers feel special, thereby building a relationship of trust and loyalty between the business and the customer.

Read also: How to deliver excellent Customer Service in your business. 

  1. It brings in new customers

Another reason why the customer is always right is that it brings in new customers. 

When businesses employ this motto, employees will always strive to put the customers first.

This, apart from boosting the retention of the old customer, will also attract new customers.

  1. It sets the bar high for your employees 

In Nigeria, businesses set the bar high for employees when they employ the mindset that the customer is always right. 

This is because employees are more likely to go the extra mile to meet the set expectations for customer service when the bar is set high than when it is set low.

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The Downsides of the “Customer is Always Right” Mentality

While there are upsides to adopting the mindset that the “customer is always right”, I have found that it can be pretty troublesome for businesses in Nigeria. 

The “customer is always right” mindset is wrong for several reasons.

  1. It unfairly favors obnoxious customers

Some customers are just wrong. Because of their awareness of the business catchphrase “the customer is always right”, they feel a sense of entitlement and take to berating and threatening employees for mistakes.

Some are dishonest and will use their obnoxious ways to get what they want. This is unacceptable.

Even if employees are at fault or made a mistake, they should still be treated with respect and dignity.

  1. It negatively affects the customer experience

With the “customer is always right” mindset, employees will go to lengths to meet the unreasonable demands of a particular customer. 

However, in trying to meet these unreasonable demands, they focus less on other customers that also need their attention. 

This neglect and lack of effort in meeting other customers’ little demands causes such customers to have a poor customer experience.

This can eventually lead to overall poor customer service in the organization.

Read also: Customers appreciation in business: Process and benefits. 

  1. It puts your team under unnecessary stress

Some customers are almost always unsatisfied. Some may even expect things your company may not be able to deliver.

In trying to please these customers, you are putting undue stress on your employees, which will most likely result in worse customer service.

  1. It creates a depressing work environment

Being told that customers will always get their way no matter what can be discouraging for employees and even make them less enthusiastic about delivering services. 

When your employees are discouraged and lack motivation, it causes a strain on the management-employee relationship, thereby ruining the work culture of the company. 

  1. Not all customers are worth keeping

Not all customers are worth keeping. Some customers are just bad for business. They are usually the most disgruntled and abusive ones who treat your employees without respect. 

No matter how much these customers may be contributing to your company, it is usually better to let them go.

Adhering to the “customer is always right” ideology and keeping them may cost you the loyalty and support of your workforce.

Are Customers Always Right?

Is the customer always right? Isn’t that the million-dollar question? 

Before I answer this question, though, let’s go back to why the phrase was coined. 

It was coined to encourage employees to go the extra mile in satisfying customers at a time when there was nothing like consumer protection. Customers were vulnerable at that time. 

But things are different now. Customers now have power and choice. So, to be clear, the answer is No.

The customer is not always right, and saying otherwise doesn’t make it true. This mantra was not meant to be followed verbatim. There are wrong customers, and employees should be trained to handle them.

Customers shouldn’t be placed above employees. There shouldn’t even be a trade-off because your first customers are your employees.

Therefore, they should be treated with the same respect accorded to customers. 

Read also: How to leverage Customer Feedback in your business.

Conclusion

Instead of enforcing the “customer is always right” catch-phrase in your business,  the best thing to do is focus on making your employees happy, and then watch as they put your customers first.

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About Author

Avatar of Jemiyotan Arioritsebafor
Jemiyotan Arioritsebafor
A freelance Content Writer and Instructional Designer. Jemiyotan Arioritsebafor is also a graduate of Mass Communication at the University of Lagos.

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1 comment

Avatar of Ditimi Podeke
Ditimi Podeke December 16, 2022 - 9:48 am

This is a beautiful and insightful piece

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