Sometimes the customer is wrong

A common phrase in business is “the customer is always right”. Not only is this incorrect, it could also spell disaster if a company truly took it to heart.

Customers are neither infallible nor omniscient, which is really what that phrase means. A company that acts as if they are opens itself to any and all demands, including the most inane.

The premise underlying this phrase is that a business should do whatever it takes to make a customer happy. While you certainly want satisfied customers, if that satisfaction means abandoning principles and giving away the farm, it might be good to have a dissatisfied customer.

I see a lot of small business owners fall victim to the “customer is always right.” The customer often uses their trump card—“You are the professional, you should have known.” On the surface this seems plausible, and it can quickly disarm the small business owner.

In an ironic twist, such claims actually mean that the owner should be omniscient and infallible. Such a standard is irrational for a business owner and the customer alike.

This is where good communications and a well-written documents are crucial. The business owner/ salesman must endeavor to fully understand the customer’s desires and set reasonable expectations. He must help the customer understand what to expect, as well as any factors that might impede achieving those expectations.

Good communications will help avoid most problems, and reduce the significance of those that do arise. It will also help you identify, and avoid, customers who believe that they are always right.

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