Is the Customer Always Right?

  • Apr 9, 2019

I often start a seminar/presentation/workshop on marketing by saying, “Your number one marketing tool is great customer service. Without at least good customer service, there’s no sense in spending any time, energy or resources on any other marketing tactics. You should take the money you’ve allocated to marketing and put it in your pocket because you’ll need it when you go bankrupt.”

So you get the message that I am a huge believer in great customer service as a marketing tool?

I’ll bet you wouldn’t think that I’m also a complete non-believer in “the customer is always right” school of thought. After all the customer can’t always be right. They may not understand what is and is not possible when making demands upon you. They may not understand (or care about) the legal ramifications of what they are requesting. They may simply not be willing to pay a fair price for what you are offering. There are a myriad of reasons why the customer isn’t always right.

Here’s my absolutely true story to prove my point:

I was working as a front desk clerk at Bally’s Resort in Las Vegas. One evening, I was checking in an older gentleman and, after completing the process and handing him his room key, he asked me for the time. I told him that it was 6:10 pm. He checked his watch and told me that he didn’t want the time in Los Angeles, he wanted to know the time in Las Vegas. I told him that 6:10 was the local time. He proceeded to tell me that my watch must still be set to L.A. time, since we all work in Las Vegas, but live in L.A.; so what is the local time? After going back and forth with him for several minutes, I realized that he was convinced that there is a time difference between California and Nevada and no amount of assuring him that we all do live in Las Vegas and do not commute ten – twelve hours every day did the trick. He never got mean or nasty and didn't seem to need to ask anyone else. Not knowing exactly what to do to satisfy him, I looked at my watch and realized that we had been going around and around with this debate for ten minutes, as it was now 6:20 pm – that’s when inspiration struck. I looked at him and said, “I’m sorry, you’re right. I forgot to adjust my watch today. It’s 6:20 in L.A. which makes it 6:23 here in Vegas.” He thanked me and walked away happy. I could rest easy knowing that the three minute difference wouldn’t cause him any serious problems for his travel plans.

What I learned that day is that the customer isn’t always right, but that we need to find a way to make the customer satisfied with the answers and solutions we present to them so that the situation can be made right.

I’d love to hear your crazy customer service stories. I’ll bet you’ve got them!


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