Sometimes The Customer Is NOT Always Right

Before reading this post, I highly recommend reading Top 5 reasons why “The Customer Is Always Right” is wrong.  That article gives great insight into the thoughts to follow.

In the US we have an old saying that says “the customer is always right.”  As time goes by there are various people (like the Southwest CEO in the article above) who don’t believe that phrase to be quite true.  While I may agree that it is not always a true statement, I feel there are some valuable lessons on both sides of this topic to be learned.  So far with my blog I have tried to stick to writing how-to or technical related articles, but recently this phrase has come up a few times so I’m dipping into “op-ed” territory for this post.  I’ll illustrate two such instances that spurred me on this topic.

The first instance I witnessed from the angle of the company.  Last week while I was waiting in line at a local video game retailer.  Ahead of me was a man (let’s call him Bob) in his late 20’s to early 30’s purchasing a new video game.  Bob asked to also get a copy of the strategy guide for the same game.  The clerk replied that the strategy guide had not been released yet so their store had no copies.  Bob insisted that the clerk had the product.  After 10 minutes of numerous phone calls, checks into the database, and searching through the store the clerk told Bob that he was unable to locate it.  Finally fed up Bob paid for his game and left the store cursing the clerk loud enough for other customers to hear.

After Bob had left, the clerk apologized for my wait (well over 10 minutes by this point) and having to witness that exchange.   He told me that Bob was a regular so all managers and associates knew him by face.  Every time Bob came in he complained about something.  Each time the employees tried to work with him and be as polite as possible.  During my encounter Bob had negatively affected a number of people in the store.  The clerk was subjected to verbal abuse, I was kept waiting, and a number of other younger customers overheard Bob swearing and half-yelling at the clerk.  Perhaps management (like the Southwest CEO) should tell Bob that there are plenty of other retailers Bob could use instead of theirs.

The second instance is more a series of events I’ve witnessed trending on various forms of media (blogs, twitter, forums, etc) coming from the angle of the dissatisfied customer.  One such event occurred a few weeks ago while listening to a fellow Twitterer (let’s call him Sam) rant about the horrible sales service he received from a local cable provider.  At the end of this series of tweets Sam finished with “<cable company name> FAIL.”

For those of us in the know, it’s not uncommon to see blog posts, tweets, or forum comments with FTW (for the win), FTL (for the lose), or epic fail announcements.  I typically don’t think much of these announcements, but Sam’s comment stuck out more than usual for me.  I think it struck a chord with me because it reminded me of a funny/insightful article I read about “if clients treated architects like software developers”.  It’s (near) impossible to please every person every single time for a given situation.  What can be helpful though is for all sides to take a minute and look at the situation from the perspective of the other person.  It’s also important to set expectations early on so that both sides know what they are getting into.  Too often we are more focused on getting MY problem resolved rather than working towards a solution that is positive for everyone.

I don’t claim to have the perfect answer for the issues that result from customer/seller relationship, but I do encourage you to take a few minutes to think about the situation from all angles the next time you feel the need to yell at a company or complain about bad service.  Sometimes the custom is NOT always right.

If any of my 7 readers out there enjoyed this switch up to a more “op-ed” style post (or if you down right didn’t like it and wish I never went down this route again) let me know in the comments.  I’ll always be working on technical posts, but if people enjoy a little variety I’m happy to give it a shot.  Thanks for reading.


-Frog Out


Extra Links

Funny “customer isn’t right” conversations

Homer Simpson Epic Fail


Vender Client relationship – in real world situations (funny video)

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