“The customer is always right” was first coined in the early 1900s and was a go-to policy for floor managers in retail. But, unfortunately, customers also picked up the motto and have used it since as ammunition to get what they want.

Let’s explore this adage and what it means for your customer care function today.

Prioritizing your customer’s needs seems like a sound business policy. However, customers are why a business exists in the first place. They pay for services and helps support the business and its employees. In addition, customers serve as referrals to other customers and return for future purchases. Without the customer, a company is in big trouble.

But none of those things mean your customer is always right.

There are dozens of reasons why a customer may not be right: they may have misread the product packing, ordered the wrong item, measured incorrectly, etc. These reasons are frequently caused by either the customer or the business and weren’t malicious in their intent. (Check out this previous article where we talked about pitfalls to avoid when handling complaints.)

But “the customer is always right” advice ignores that they can be dishonest, have unrealistic expectations, or misuse a product or service.

Here are a few ways jumping through hoops to make unreasonable customers happy can hurt your business:

  1. Time. It takes time away to hear, manage, and resolve complaints. When your time is spent on customers you’d rather not have, you’re stealing time away from making your services better for all customers, not just the one with a gripe.
  2. Lost Focus. Reacting to negative feedback can detract from your business’s sound strategies and practices. Don’t make a kneejerk reaction in response to feedback. One person’s misrepresented experience does not provide a clear picture of what all your customers think. As a result, you may end up hurting your business rather than helping it.   
  3. Demoralized Staff. If the customer is always right, then one of your employees is always wrong. Allowing one bad customer to use your staff as a scapegoat can lead to miserable employees. That employee will probably feel undervalued and like a sitting duck waiting for the next customer to take a shot. When a customer treats your staff poorly or gripes about a staff member, have a plan in place to protect your employees from abusive customers or illegitimate claims.
  4. Future Complaints. If customers are always right, this can create an environment where They may take advantage of your generosity and kindness. For example, they may share tips on public review sites for getting freebies or other special considerations. You don’t want this! Develop policies for handling complaints that set limits.
  5. Lost Revenue. Working to please unhappy customers with illegitimate concerns will cost you revenue. Perhaps you comp’ed their product or service or given them a new one. Whatever the resolution, you’re now paying out of pocket to keep this person happy.

Find Your Best Customers

Here’s a new adage to consider: Not all customers are right for your business. And that’s ok.

With the growing diversity of products and services available online, many businesses have focused on specialization. However, when they stop trying to be everything to everyone, they can accomplish far more and improve their bottom line.

Take a look at your best customers and begin building a profile of your target customer. Then, focus your marketing efforts to attract a customer who are a better fit for your business. Spend more time courting your ideal customer and less time dealing with those who don’t fit.