Is the Customer Always Right?
When Harry Gordon Selfridge decided to start his department store in London in 1909, he did so after spending 25 years at Marshall Fields. He was looking for a way to differentiate his store from others at the time, and he created the phrase “The customer is always right.” It was his way of communicating how important his customers were. It apparently worked as Selfridge’s would go on to over a century in business.
The question is, however, is there validity to the phrase? Is the customer always right?
You will likely get different answers when talking to a business owner or manager than when discussing this with a waiter or waitress or other customer service personnel. The reality is, however, the customer is NOT always right.
Customers make mistakes when ordering. They may choose the wrong size or select the wrong color. They may not fully understand shipping charges or may think they want their steak rare when they really want it medium.
The problem is it is hard to win an argument with the person holding the checkbook. After all, you may make your point, but in the process lose a customer. The customer may not always be right, but they are important.
The issue is amplified today with the internet and how fast an unpleasant experience with a product or service can be shared through social media or customer review websites. This is why more companies are adopting “customer appeasement” programs.
Rather than simply admitting the customer is always right, an appeasement program recognizes the importance of each individual customer, and the importance of taking steps to remediate any real or perceived problems.
A key to a customer appeasement program is listening to the customer and reaching an acceptable and reasonable appeasement solution. It may include a coupon, future discount, promotional item or even a complete refund. With an appeasement program, the customer may not always be right, but they are always important.
Finding new customers can be challenging and expensive. Once you get them, they are worth keeping.
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