Is Customer Always Right? (I don’t think so)

As a small business owner you hear these phrases time and again from your peers – “Customer is always right”, “Don’t argue with customers”, “Customer is king” and on and on. While this is true in many cases, we find it hard to accept it without qualification. Let’s face it – There is enough number of people out there who want to (and do) take advantage of this philosophy. They will find some reasons to bitch about your products or services. Some will do it because they are having a bad day; others will do it to get discount or free stuff; while still others will do it just because they can.

When we used to own multi-unit fast food chain we had few customers who were never happy. One particular customer always found something wrong with the food. He would always call back with complaints about food, service or something else. We had a very generous customer service policy at the time and we would extend credit to him towards next purchase without much argument. After some time, we realized what was going on and started asking tough questions and denying him the credit on several occasions. After few days he got the message and the complaints stopped.
Now, we are not arguing against providing excellent customer service. In fact, we have written several posts about it in the past here and here. Where we take issue is when customers start to misuse it. What we have learned from past experience is this – customer IS right MOST OF THE TIME; but he/she is NOT ALWAYS be right.
So how do you take care of the customers who misuse your generous customer service? First and foremost, you should start with the understanding and assumption that customer is right and provide the excellent customer service that is required for the success of any small business. At the same time, watch out for those who misuse your generous policy and cost you money. We called them “bad” customers in this post and showed how to deal with them here. If it is one-time incident you can bite the tongue and move on; while keeping the poker face in front of customers. If the misuse continues give them subtle message by politely refusing to honor unreasonable requests. Or suggest them alternatives that will satisfy their needs. After all this, if the customer doesn’t get the message, you can refuse to serve him/her and ask them to move on to your competition and let them earn their business!
We would caution you to ensure that the customer you have refused to do business with doesn’t take the fight to next level and malign you and your business in the community and Internet using social media. You should monitor the reputation of your business and take appropriate actions when the situation does arise. See this example of how Internet makes it easy for customers to complain and let the whole world know about it.
What do you think? Do you believe in the Customer is always right philosophy?

Image Courtesy:   cdrummbks

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  1. I love this article, and I’m very thankful that you took the time to post it!

    Far too many people mindlessly accept phrases like “the customer is king” or worse “the customer is always right” without any exception, and I think that it’s dangerous to any business in this day and age to believe in those archaic philosophies. Like you said perfectly in your post, if you’re dealing with someone who is clearly taking advantage of your company’s customer service policies, not only are they NOT “always right”, but more importantly, they need to be politely told to stop. Rewarding bad behavior of any kind is an incredibly bad idea that will get you nowhere.

    I am so glad that you’re fighting the good fight on your blog, because I’ll be fighting right alongside you! EXCELLENT POST!

    • SmallBizViewpoints says:


      Thanks for your feedback. The key to deal with those customers who are taking advantage of your generosity is to POLITELY say No to them, as you said appropriately. Once in while you do need to take a stand and refuse to go with established philosophy.