IS THE CUSTOMER ALWAYS RIGHT?

by Trevor Lee

One of my first jobs was a waiter at a chain restaurant in my small hometown. Early on in my training I was shadowing an experienced server. As a part of the training I would write down the orders alongside her and we’d enter them into the POS together. There was a table of four young guys who came in and were a little disrespectful from the start–nothing terrible–but enough to put me on edge. They ordered and about fifteen minutes later their food came out. We stopped by a few minutes later (three to be exact–that was procedure!) to check on them.

“This isn’t what I ordered,” one of the young men told us flatly.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” my trainer responded. “What was your order?”

He told us what he supposedly ordered and then asked to see a manager to report our failure to get his order right. As we walked away from the table my trainer said under her breath, “The customer is always right.”

In this case, I knew the customer was wrong. We had both written down the order, which allowed us to double check and make sure we got it right. The truth is, the customer isn’t always right, but that’s not what this saying is really getting at. It really means that the customer should always be treated as if they’re right so as not to lose their business. So do we really need to take a kick in the teeth and act like we asked for it? Here are three things to consider.

So do we really need to take a kick in the teeth and act like we asked for it?

Serving customers, even the tough ones, is best for them and for you.

You can look at a difficult customer as a pain in the butt, or you can look at that customer as a person you have the chance to win over. There’s an opportunity to make someone’s life better and to win a customer for the long haul. This is a different aim altogether than being right. Whether the customer is right or not is actually beside the point if you are focused on serving them as a person.

People who interact with customers have the chance to make their life better with each interaction. That’s something worth doing. And in the long run it doesn’t hurt the bottom line either.

People who interact with customers have the chance to make their life better with each interaction. That’s something worth doing.

Serving customers, even the tough ones, is essential to your business’ success.

We live in a time where a few bad reviews on yelp or google can tank your business. When people are looking for a company that does what you do and your rating is lower than someone else, guess who they’re going with? Sometimes, especially with the really tough customers, you have to remind yourself that your reputation is way more important than telling someone off.

You may be right. And they may be way out of line. But don’t give them the power to credibly rip your business.

There is a breaking point.

That night in the restaurant nothing terrible happened. Our manager went and talked to the disgruntled table, talked to us about the situation, and then comped one of their meals to make them feel better about the experience. But there was another night, months later, when a couple became verbally abusive toward one of my coworkers. After trying to calm them down the manager finally ended up asking them to leave. They didn’t go quietly.

Especially for those in leadership, there does come a point where you need to stand up to a customer for the sake of your company culture and employee morale.

My guess is that they didn’t recommend our restaurant to their friends to say the least. But in that case my manager did the right thing. Especially for those in leadership, there does come a point where you need to stand up to a customer for the sake of your company culture and employee morale. And because there are some lines that just shouldn’t be crossed. Even in the rare case that a customer interaction escalates to this point, keep your composure, treat them with dignity, and you’ll be able to move forward without regrets.