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The customer is always…

Posted by Michael Bloch in ecommerce (Tuesday April 1, 2008 )

…right? Heck no. I don’t subscribe to that terrible concept. While the customer is certainly not always wrong, if they are, they need to be gently told so and if they are being belligerent, put firmly in their place. I’ve often wondered who the person was that came up with that misguided pearl of un-wisdom (?) and recently found out.

The concept was originally coined by Hotelier César Ritz in 1908, but was originally “the customer is never wrong” In 1909, Harry Gordon Selfridge of Selfridge’s department store in London put the “positive” spin on it – the customer is always right. The principle was to encourage better customer service.

Things have changed in a hundred years – commerce has evolved or devolved depending on your standpoint :).

No reasonable customer deserves to be treated with disrespect – even when things are a little bumpy in the relationship; but there are some very unreasonable folks whom I suspect have had dealings with companies who subscribe to that motto and it’s simply emboldened them. At times, the online environment makes things worse as they become more aggressive when there is no face to face communication.

These people tend to feel secure in the knowledge they won’t be challenged. I think it’s high time this ended as it doesn’t help anyone – including the customer, but particularly your staff; and can have serious knock-on effects for your business.

There’s a fantasic article here with 5 reasons why the customer is always right is wrong and contains some interesting info on how it can lead to poorer customer service.

An article I published a few years back touches on some of the same points and also provides some tips and strategies for dealing with aggressive clients in online business. Try them out, they do work (with most people) and bear in mind, as Alexander mentions – some customers are quite simply bad for business and you’re better off without them.


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