FeaturesPeople Daily

When customer is not king

Rose Muthoni @rosemuthoniN

The phrase “The customer is always right” was coined by Harry Gordon Selfridge the founder of Selfridge department stores in 1909. It served two purposes: to convince the client that they will receive good service at the company and to convince employees to give customers good service. But is it time to abandon this wisdom?

Have you ever come across a customer who was so rude and complained about everything? Should your small and medium enterprise (SME) consider this customer as king?

More and more businesses are abandoning this maxim, more so because it does the opposite of what it is intended for, it leads to bad customer service. Here are reasons “the customer is always right” is wrong.

It makes employees unhappy

When you bump into customers you cannot possibly sit back, your loyalty should be with your employees. Just because a customer brings business does not give them the right to insult your employees.

If you fail to support them during such circumstances, you risk them developing resentment. Of course we cannot ignore the fact that there are nasty employees who give lousy customer service, but declaring that customer is always king is counter-productive.

It gives abrasive customers an unfair advantage

By declaring the customer is always right, abusive ones can take advantage. This makes employees work even harder while trying to rein them in. It also means the customer gets better service compared to the nice people. You need to be even nicer to nice customers to make them come back.

Some customers are actually bad for business

‘The more the customers the better’ is a maxim that most businesses have bought into. But some customers are bad for business. It is ok to cut ties with bad customers. Cancel contracts even. It is not about the amount of money you will lose when that customer leaves, it is about your employees receiving dignified treatment.

It results in bad customer service

I have always wondered why there are so many complaints on Buyer Beware Kenya facebook page? I am sure every consumer has interacted with an employee who was rude, unresponsive or insultive.

Have our employees gone rogue? The answer might be because we keep insisting that the customer is always right. Rosenbluth chief executive Hal Rosenbluth, in his book Put The Customer Second – Put Your People First and See Them Kick Butt, says that when you put employees first, they put the customers first.

This is because your employees care more about other people, especially your customers, they have more energy, they are happy and therefore, more fun to talk to and interact with, and they are also more motivated.

However, if the company is not on the employees side, they feel they are not valued, they think treating customers well is not important, they feel they have no right to get respect from customers and that they have to put up with anything from the customers.

Your employees end up giving lousy service or are courteous on the surface only. They give fake good service. Without compromising on customer service, it is time to throw this maxim out the window. Be careful, however, that your employees, especially those who do not share your vision, do not kick out good and loyal customers because of bad service.

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