As we have been talking about customer service, we wanted to share a question from one of our Toronto office space tenants who asked our blogger “Why do people say ‘The customer is always right’ when sometimes the customer is actually wrong?” Our blogger promised that he will investigate and write about this assumption.

Remember in our previous blog we mentioned that it was Harry Gordon Selfridge, an American-born retailer and the founder of Selfridge’s Department Store in London, who first coined the phrase “The customer is always right” in 1909. He did this to convince customers that they will get good service at his store and to encourage employees to give customers fine service. While he is also credited with being the first to promote Christmas sales with the phrase “Only _____ Shopping Days Until Christmas”, that strategy is often exploited by customers who will never be satisfied or happy with the goods or services they purchase.

Here are a few reasons that companies have to be careful of following the “The customer is always right” adage too closely – especially when it comes to unruly customers who always complain.

  • It can make staff unhappy because they do not see you as protecting their back. In conflicts between employees and unruly customers, employers need to side with employees when it is obvious the customer is wrong – or risk losing talented and loyal workers who meet and sometimes exceed the needs of 99% of their customers.
  • It can give abrasive customers an unfair advantage over your good customers and your business. Abusive customers can demand just about anything, believing they’re right by definition because of your “The customer is always right” policy. This can often make your employees’ job much more difficult when trying to rein in customers who refuse to accept that the problem was not caused by your product or service, or even by your staff. It also means that abusive people get better treatment than customers who do not constantly complain. It makes much more sense to be nice to the good customers to keep them coming back.
  • Some bad customers are just bad for business. While most businesses want every customer they can service, this is not always best for their business. If you are spending more time dealing with difficult customers, you have less time to work with good customers who are loyal, repeat clients who are happy with your service. These are the customers you want to retain.

While defining what makes a good customer and a bad customer may be difficult, there are signs that will indicate who is taking advantage of you. When a customer consistently uses your product and service and every transaction ends up with a complaint (but they still continue to use your product or service), chances are they are hoping to get something else in return. Airlines are constantly bombarded by complaints from a few customers who continue to fly with them, but are never happy with one aspect or another. A good customer will bring a problem or concern to your attention without expectations of anything more than resolving the issue.

Some businesses who identify continuously bad customers, will make the choice to fire or sever business relations with that customer. One example of asking a customer to find another place to conduct business was actually not an office space Toronto tenant, but a Toronto virtual office client. This client consistently had some customers who would show up at our office space reception un-announced to the a client who did not have a physical office at our business centre. Our receptionist was bound not to inform their client that they did not have an actual office here, but could only tell them that the client was not in at the time.

As this went on and on, we needed to inform the virtual office client that their customer showing up un-announced had become rude and an annoyance to our receptionist. We had to ask the client to ask his customer to stop just showing up – or the client should find a new virtual office arrangement. The client decided to stop serving the customer instead of having to change his business address. Shortly after they did this, business was going good, the client decided they wanted physical office space and rented an office for rent Toronto at our office business centre without having to change his address. He now makes it clear to customers on his website that they are often not in the office, so appointments are absolutely necessary.

Over the past few blogs we have discussed customer service – but we have yet to discuss how to take it to the next level and provide ‘exceptional’ customer service. Our next blog will focus on some tips and examples of good and exceptional customer service. We we also tell you how exceptional customer service can benefit more than just the customers you serve.