Where Did This Phrase Come From?
Harry Gordon Selfridge, founder of Selfridge’s department store in London in 1909 coined the phrase “the customer is always right.” Why do businesses all around the world use this phrase?
- Convince customers they’re the main priority
- Influence employees to give customers good service
The whole goal of an organization is to bridge the gap between their companies performance and a customer’s expectations. This is the true mark of any successful customer service department. At your Hotel, Motel, and Bed & Breakfast, your mission is to provide guests with “appropriate” services for your given establishment. How you decide to handle customers who abuse customer relations and how you train employees to deal with these situations will determine the success and happiness of your entire staff.
3 reasons why “the customer is always right” should be avoided
1. Employee Resentment
Employees feed off their manager or bosses actions, personality, and motives. Everyday, your hotel caters and serves hundreds of guests and customers who have different demands and expectations. Because not everyone can be pleased, your hospitality staff will undoubtedly run into irritate and irrational customers. Your staff is your driving force, the physical face that interacts with every guest that enter’s your establishment. Just as your staff values customer relations, they expect the support of YOU.
Don’t settle for just making your customers happy, put your employees first. Putting your employees first will ultimately lead to better customer service and a happier employee. Employees with experience and knowledge love to know that they are valued and that you have their back during difficult customer situations. This is not to say that bad employees exist that give lousy customer service, but the notion that “customer’s are always right” is counter productive.
2. Unfair Treatment for Respectful Customers
When your staff is spending more of their time trying to be nice to rude customers, and less time getting repeat business from respectful customers, there’s a problem. Logically you have to ask yourself, “Why are abusive people getting better treatment?” This does not mean that issues can’t be resolved or that you shouldn’t listen first, and ask questions later, but there should be more emphasis on servicing those that deserve it.
3. Results in Worse Customer Service and Wasted Time
I would recommend reading about Alexander Kjerulf, a happiness expert for Woohoo Inc. As an author for the Huffington Post, Kjerulf’s post about “Customer’s Aren’t Always Right” went viral. With over 300k likes on Facebook, and over 60,000 shares, the idea has started to come full circle in America.
From Alexander Kjerulf’s viral post, he writes about Rosenbluth International, a corporate travel agency, where the CEO Hal Rosenbluth wrote a book about his approach, which is to Put the customer second- Put your people first and watch’em kick butt. From watching and reading many of Alexander’s videos and articles, his points coincide with Rosenbluth’s. There is a big difference between employee satisfaction and employee happiness. Rosenbluth writes that when a manager puts their employees first, their employees put their customers first. Happiness in the workplace leads to:
- Employees who are motivated
- Employees who have energy
- Employees who care about taking care of their customers
You may be thinking, “why is it a waste of time to deal with a paying customer?” At some point respect and dignity goes a long way. Mistakes happen, we’re all human. If you turn an “oops” into an “opportunity” to help a customer, and they are still not respectful or appreciative, it’s not worth the time or resources to meet expectations that aren’t realistic. As Kjerulf mentions, 80% of your stress should not be put on 20% of your revenue.
Learning from Customer Complaints
Bill Gates was quoted saying, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Rather than becoming defensive and escalating the situation, teach your employees to listen and be sympathetic. Only after listening and asking questions, can you begin to formulate a plan of action to resolve your customer’s issue. Here are 3 ways to deal with unhappy customers effectively.
1. Understand Their Viewpoint
The phrase “customer’s aren’t always right” doesn’t mean you can run from issues or mistakes. Successfully dealing with customer issues builds credibility and loyalty. Teach your customer service representatives to put themselves in the guests shoes. Relate, relate, relate. Were the customers expectations not met? Could your organization done something differently? Ask questions of the customers, and then ask questions of your organization. If the failure was apart of your organization’s wrong doing, then learn from the mistake and fix it.
2. Don’t Worry About Mistakes Out of Your Control
Worry about the mistakes you can control. Own your mistakes when customers point them out. This will show your guests that you are willing to find a resolution. Find the reasoning behind the mistake and brainstorm ideas on how to make sure the issue isn’t repeated.
As a company, there are many services or amenities that simply aren’t provided by your organization, but expected from guests. If dissatisfaction or complaints arise from these sorts of issues, state your justifications. Not all motels are going to have full service breakfast stations, just like not all hotels are going to have an indoor pool. Don’t apologize for mistakes or assumptions that are really just unrealistic expectations.
3. How Are You Going to Make Things Right?
Empower your employees to be trained at resolving issues on the spot. This will instill confidence in your employees and leave your guests much happier than having to wait to speak with a Manager. Zeke Adkins, an Entrepreneur.com contributor writes:
It almost always makes sense to provide some sort of compensation to the customer and it doesn’t have to be much. You don’t want to break the bank or have your company go out of business. But offer a refund, a credit to the customer’s account or a discount. Match the level of compensation to the level of inconvenience as well. Not every situation will call for a full refund.
Dealing with a customer complaint should flow in a process. Listen to their complaints and ask questions. This will allow you to understand their viewpoint and where their expectations weren’t met. If the issue or complaint was your organization’s fault, admit responsibility for the service that wasn’t given. Lastly, compensation your customer for the inconvenience the mistake caused. Dealing with a customer in this three step process will hopefully reestablish loyalty and lead to recurring guests and customers.
Other Sources of Information
- Customers Are Not Always Right. They’re Just Never Wrong
- Top 5 Reasons Why ‘The Customer is Always Right’ Is Wrong
- No, The Customer Isn’t Always Right
- Alexander Kjerulf
Very interesting debate and topic. We must ask ourselves if repeatedly dealing with an unpleasant customer is the best business decision. Where is the line drawn? Like, Share, Comment your thoughts on customer relation experiences below!