The customer is always right, right?

We’ve all heard it before, “the customer is always right.” However, is this saying true? Is the customer always right? I remember working for a small family business when I was younger that lived by the motto “the customer is always right.” Unfortunately for the business they are now closed. Could it of been because the recession? Or the fact that the very customers that were supposed to keep the business afloat, ended up killing the business?

I remember working for that business one summer when I was in high school. A gentleman came in and bought 2 flats of flowers and a small bag of potting soil. I rang him up and loaded the products in his car for him. He left and returned about 10 minutes later claiming that I shorted his order. He claimed he purchased 5 flats of flowers and a large bag of soil. I asked for his receipt and he claimed I never gave it to him. (What this man claimed I shorted him cost around $30 worth of product.) I contact my boss and told him of the situation. I asked if he wanted me to pull all my receipts and count my till. He then said something to me that I never forgot, “If the customer can flat out lie to your face – give him what he wants. Remember one thing Andrew; the customer is always right.” I never understood why he would say this.

Throughout my career I have always had positions where I interacted with customers daily. It seemed like no matter what business I worked at there were always a customer claiming they deserve something they didn’t purchase. Some businesses gave in and some didn’t. I worked at a lawn care company that specialized in lawn fertilization applications. There was a new client who had only one treatment for his lawn. Not only was his lawn in horrible shape because it was neglected for years, the man never watered his lawn. The customer then went to the business Facebook page and tried to claim that we provide horrible service. He went on claiming that his lawn was covered in weeds, had thin spots and poor color. The reaction the business owner gave was pretty great. The business owner replied to his post so everyone could see. He thanked him for sharing his photo, and reminded him that this was his first application, and it has only been 3 days since the treatment. He went on explaining how lawn care works. (the same info they gave him when he signed up.) He then went on thanking him for his service and guaranteed his satisfaction, if not his application would be free. Needless to say when they came back for his second application they noticed every weed was gone. The technician took a picture and uploaded it to the business Facebook page showing the before and after from just one application.  Needless to say the customer realized he was wrong, and never once posted another thing on the page.

Don’t get me wrong, there will be times when the customer is right. There have been times where I forgot to do something I promised or misquoted a project. I believe that we need to set the motto. “the customer is always right.” on the back burner. I feel sometimes we use it as an excuse on how to properly handle situation, or to fess up on our mistakes. As business leaders we should always strive for 100% customer satisfaction. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon once said “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

The Huffington Post did an article on this very topic and  gave five reasons why ‘the customer is always right’ is wrong:

1 : It Makes Employees Unhappy – If you were told by your boss that you were wrong and the customer is always right. Would you be motivated to give 100% ?

2: It Gives Abrasive Customers an Unfair Advantage – We all have dealt with those customers. They will use this line to get what ever they want.

3: Some Customers Are Bad For Business – Both examples I gave were a great example of such customers.

4: It Results in Worse Customer Service – This can be a direct issue from reason #1

5: Some Customers Are Just Plain Wrong. – This pretty much speak for itself.


This is why in my office I don’t live by this motto. If I or one of our employees make a mistake. We admit to it, apologize to the client, fix it and don’t do it again. Our focus is to build a team who can take pride in their work and deliver the best experience for our clients.


If you would like to read the Huffington Post article  discusses in this blog. You may by simply clicking here.



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