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ARTICLE - Is The Customer Always Right?
Is The Customer Always Right?

An old adage is ‘the customer is always right’.  In most cases this is a sound principle for a business to adopt, but customers cannot always be right and extremely bad and obnoxious clients not only waste much time and money, but can be bad for future business and put off existing valued customers.   It is useful to remember that business owners can ultimately choose their customers.  The key is drawing a line between offering excellent customer service for a reasonable complaint from a reasonable person, to not wasting an undue amount of time, money, and effort on the patently unreasonable.  This article explores the provision of customer service and aims to establish where this line may be drawn.

A lady goes back to a supermarket with a huge salmon she had purchased demanding her money back, because she did not like the fish’s miserable expression.  She was refunded her money back for the ‘solemn salmon’ by the store with their compliments.  So ran a television advert featuring Prunella Scales (appropriately!) of Fawlty Towers fame, as part of supermarket giant Tesco’s campaign.  This revolved around the theme of ‘buy from us with no regrets; we will give your money back irrespective of the reason’.   A good satirical idea; the problem was that a few people took this too literally and were indeed returning fish back for the wrong expression and other products for similar daft reasons.  There are all sorts of people in this world and not all are reasonable or indeed rational! 

The old adage goes that ‘the customer is always right’, taken to extreme means that they can be as rude, obnoxious, and unreasonable as they wish; and the business should still treat them as royalty.  The logic behind this saying is that if you serve even the worst customers well, then this maintains your reputation of providing outstanding customer service.  However, the customer cannot always be right.  There will be examples of absolutely abysmal customers, whom as well as wasting an extortionate amount of time, can cause untold damage to a business, and indeed put off existing and more rational customers.  Taking a supermarket example again, if a wrinkly man of senior years decides that he would like to do his shopping totally naked (this sort of thing has happened!), this will clearly put off most other customers, notwithstanding any public decency laws broken.   The customer cannot always be right, there is a line to be drawn, and it is where this line is placed that is the crux of balancing good sensible customer service against pandering to the clearly bonkers and unreasonable. 

The majority of customers are reasonable of course, and if their purchase is not up to legitimate expectations for whatever reason, they are entitled to receive top quality efficient customer service to put matters right.   Indeed it can be the make or break for future custom, the manner a problem is dealt with.   

More often than not for an efficient mail order company, customer complaints can arise due to the inefficiencies of a company employed to despatch goods.  For Datalite UK Ltd most queries arise from the disgraceful service currently offered by the United Kingdom’s Royal Mail; they seem to have an unlimited capacity to lose or damage items in their care.  Nevertheless, this is not the customer’s fault, and they are entitled to receive a swift resolution to a problem arising during despatch.   

Customers can naturally be annoyed by receipt of a damaged item; if they have been looking forward to its arrival or have a time critical use for the product, receipt of a damaged or incorrect item can be extremely frustrating.  For the supplier such customers deserve swift resolution of their problem, and in certain cases a complimentary extra can go some way to retain their goodwill and hence custom.  

However, a business owner does need to draw a line over what conduct can be expected from a customer.  The adage ‘The Customer Is Always Right’ discussed above can be countered by ‘A Business Is Entitled To Choose Its Customers’.  Two recent real life examples within Datalite are cited to show an example of roughly where this line can fall.   

The first example is a Miss ‘G’, she reported that the spelling of a name on her personalised gift was incorrect; she expressed her disappointment and annoyance, but remained professional and reasonable.  Ironically it turned out the incorrect name was provided by her, but nevertheless she was provided with an immediate free replacement.  Goodwill was retained on both sides and this customer in her thanks states she will fully recommend the company.   

The second contrasting example was from a Ms. ‘G’.  Her initial missive was an extremely rude and abrasive eMail written in BLOCK CAPITALS throughout and absolutely condescending and demanding.  Her complaint queried a name meaning (she was not happy that our correct meaning did not mean ‘Princess’!).  It was decided in an instant due to the manner of her first contact regarding this matter, this was not a customer we wished to deal with in the future, legal obligations were fulfilled by a refund on return of disputed item, and she was informed her custom was no longer welcome.   

This leads to an overall conclusion that the customer and supplier are normally in a mutually beneficial arrangement, both value their time and money.   When time and money is perceived as overtly wasted by either party, then this will likely result in the breakdown of that particular business relationship.

For further information on customer service see https://www.dluk.info/customer-always-right.html


Datalite UK Ltd article explores the question 'Is The Customer Always Right?' and passes on tips on business customer service.
About The Author
John D Henry BA BSc, Managing Director of  DATALITE UK LTD
Supplier of quality picture frames and personalised gifts at https://www.dluk.info.
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