The Customer is Often Wrong

We’re well into the holiday season now and it’s clear that many have taken the old axiom “the customer is always right” as a license for bad behavior. Witness the egregious behavior of the pepper-spraying Walmart video game shopper on Black Friday. The original meaning of this retail policy was to make customers feel special by convincing them they’d get good service. Now by rewarding bad behavior and penalizing people who are respectful of others, it has created a situation where good service is rare.

Consider the message that accommodating abusive customers—regardless of your business–sends to employees. It communicates that your hardworking staff is less valuable than someone you may have known for mere moments, that no matter what the cost, you’ll do anything to “get the business” and that your employees have no right to expect fairness and respect in the workplace. Is it any wonder that corporate suffering is endemic?

The justification that it takes more money to get a new customer than keep an existing one needs to be balanced by remembering how much money it takes to recruit, hire and train employees versus keeping a loyal staffer happy.

“Resigning” bad customers is often the best thing for your bottom line. It sends a powerful message to your employees and customers regarding your corporate values. As consumers, we need to be reasonable when dealing with companies and take responsibility for our part in any issue. Choosing to frequent those companies that balance the voice of their employees with the concerns of their customers rewards the behavior that creates a better workplace for all of us.

Amanda Mitchell is an executive coach and strategist specializing in helping senior executives deal with disruptive drama within their teams. An advertising agency veteran, she experienced first-hand the business implications of corporate drama both with her Fortune 500 clients and within the Manhattan ad agency she led. She founded Our Corporate Life (www.ourcorporatelife.com) to help executives solve the problems no one wants to deal with. She has been published in Bloomberg Businessweek, and quoted in Fast Company, CNBC.com, and Monster.com. She lives in New Jersey with her family.

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