Q: I'm so sick of you so-called business experts always saying the customer is always right. This is my business, not the customer's, so I'm the one who's always right. Sure, they can have an opinion, but in the end it's up to me to decide who's right and who's not. And if the customer doesn't like it they can take their business elsewhere. What do you say to that, Mr. Business Expert?
-- Paul W.
A: Ah, Paul, and I had such high hopes that we would be friends. Oh well, so much for that hope. The fact is, Paul, within the context of a normal business transaction, the customer is always right. If you can't accept that fact, you won't have customers for long.
Sure, the customer might also be unreasonable, demanding, obnoxious, totally insane, and argumentative, but if you are willing to take their money in exchange for providing a product or service, then yes, the customer is always right.
I agree that there are terrible customers that will beat you into the ground if you let them. They rant, they rave, and they demand more than they should receive. But guess what, Paul? If a customer crosses the line of reasonability you don't have to do business with them. Thank them for their time and then send them on their not-so-merry way. Let them become someone else's problem if they are too much for you.
I have invited customers to take their business elsewhere and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The truth is some customers can not be pacified and end up doing more harm to your business than good. Still, it's up to you to do business with them and if you choose to do so, you basically agree to put up with whatever they dish out.
Most customer issues arise from bad customer service. There is not a week that goes by that I am not confronted with bad customer service, provided by apathetic business owners and their disgruntled employees who don't seem to give a flip that I am not a happy customer.
As an entrepreneur I give my fellow entrepreneurs more leeway than most people when it comes to bad customer service. I know how hard it is to be in business and I know how busy the average entrepreneur is. Still, the entrepreneur who ignores the customers needs will not be an entrepreneur very long.
I am not an over-demanding customer, but I do expect to be treated with the respect due someone who is willing to pay hard earned money for a product or service. In the past year I have been physically assaulted by a car salesman who refused to back up the promises he had made to get my signature on the dotted line. I've given up going to a certain Mexican fast food restaurant because the spiky-haired kids behind the counter act like taking my order is a major imposition on their day and when I do convince them to sell me food, the order is always wrong. And a certain cable company is still billing me for cable service at a house I moved out of six months ago.
So don't preach to me about who's right and who's wrong, Paul, because I have enough customer service horror stories to fill your soon to be empty appointment book, and in every case the customer WAS right.
Tell you what, Paul, instead of continuing my regular customer service sermon let me take this opportunity to write an open letter to you and other entrepreneurs everywhere who share your point of view.
Dear Paul (and the rest of you jokers),
The next time I order your product and you swear on a stack of bibles that it will absolutely, positively be there overnight and when it doesn't show up for two weeks and is broken in a dozen pieces and I call you to complain and you just say, "Oh well..."
The next time you tell me that my house needs a new roof when really all it really needs is a few shingles nailed down and when I confront you with the truth of the matter and you just say, "Oh well..."
The next time you tell me that my car needs a new engine when all it really needs is a battery, and I point this out to you and you just say, "Oh well..."
The next time I get lousy customer service from you I am going to go out of my way to let the world know about you. I'm going to start a campaign of customer service unawareness that will have angry customers beating on your door with torches and pitch forks in hand.
I'm going to send emails to everyone I know and encourage them to pass them on to everyone they know. It'll be like that old shampoo commercial where I tell two friends and they tell two friends and they tell two friends and before you know it the entire world will know to avoid your business like the plague.
Then I'm going to build a website dedicated to telling the world about your lousy customer service, Paul. I'll register it with replace engines and send out press releases and buy TV and radio spots that announce to the world that your idea of customer service leaves much to be desired.
And when you come crying back to me, Paul, moaning that you have been run out of business as a result of my campaign of customer service unawareness do you know what I'm going to say?
That's right, Paul, old pal.
I'll just say, "Oh well."
Here's to your success!