Is the Customer Always Right? Really?

Businessman working with generic design notebook. Holding smartphone in handsThe term “the customer is always right” was coined by an Englishman named Harry Gordon Selfridge in 1909. He was the owner of a successful department store in London, and used the phrase to convince his customers that they would always be getting the best deal at his shop.

More than a century later, the phrase has become wildly popular among businesses all over the world, but is the customer always right? Using the phrase as a business practice is a horrible idea, and can lead to serious problems within your company.

Why “The Customer Is Always Right” Is Wrong

Some of the negative effects of adopting the phrase “the customer is always right” as a business policy include:

  1. It Pits Staff Against Customers – The phrase inherently sets your employees in opposition with your customers. It also gives customers an unfair advantage. This kind of environment can, and often does, lead to low morale among your staff. Employees get frustrated by belligerent customers who are protected by your “customer always right” policy, and may end up quitting, or worse.
  2. Some Customers Aren’t Worthy – When the phrase was first coined it was intended to show a dedication to good service, but nowadays customers use it as an excuse to be rude. Many customers take advantage of the term by being rude and disrespectful until they get what they want. Not only does this make employees’ jobs harder, but it rewards rude behavior, which is not cool.
  3. Mo’ Customers, Mo’ Problems – Believing the philosophy that more customers, leads to more business, leads to more money is great, but there does come a point when no amount of money is worth it. Allowing one, or even a group, of customers to make unreasonable demands or behave rudely to your employees can cost more than what they bring in.
  4. Customers Simply Aren’t Always Right – Nobody is right all of the time, especially customers. A majority of your customers aren’t experts in your industry; otherwise, they’d be doing your job. There are times when a customer is just plain wrong about something. Don’t encourage a customer who is clearly wrong by taking their side over your employee.

For a business to be successful, it has to keep moving forward. Adopting a 100-year-old catchphrase used by an English shop owner as your own business model is not progress. Put your employees first, and they will put the customer first.

The Monmouth County business attorneys at Garland & Mason, LLC have been working hard on behalf of small business owners for years, and take great pride in being a part of their lasting success.


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