Is the Customer Always Right?

Is the customer always right? 

Customer service in the airline industry has recently taken a beating. It has been impossible to turn on the television or surf social media sites lately without coming across the now infamous video of a seemingly unconscious physician being dragged off a United Airlines jet by guards. This public relations nightmare for United Airlines could have been easily avoided if the airline employees had simply practiced the adage, “The customer is always right.” Regardless of the details of this situation, through poor customer service, United Airline’s employees inflicted immense damage to the company’s reputation and finances. Customers of United Airlines now have the impression that at least when compared to the well-being of the employees of the airline, they do not matter.  This situation highlights a concerning pattern in today’s business world.

Where some businesses have gone wrong.

As a retail employee years ago while working to pay for college, I was trained to always give the customer what he or she wanted, regardless of the cost. In training, we were taught the “pickle principle.” If a customer asks for an extra pickle, it is less important to sell the slice of pickle than it is to retain the customer’s satisfaction. The importance of customer satisfaction as the most valuable asset in business was continually reinforced. It has been a long time since I have worked as an employee in the retail sector, but I am a customer daily. I have recently noticed that customer service has fallen by the wayside. Returns are not accepted without a receipt, no exceptions. While you’re trying to check out, cashiers look at their phones to make sure they haven’t missed a text message. Airlines, after selling you a ticket for several hundred dollars, refuse to allow you to use it while offering preference to their own employees who didn’t pay to obtain your seat. 

When did companies decide that customer service didn’t matter?  Perhaps customer service stopped being important when customers took to the internet to check prices and started making purchases based solely on price? Regardless of the reason, the trend is alarming, and it is detrimental to both businesses and customers. If businesses can only separate and identify themselves based on their low prices, they will find themselves competing against other businesses that are willing to perform the same service or offer the same product at a lower price. This does not provide stability for business owners or an incentive to improve product or service quality. Furthermore, if the inconvenience of poor quality or service costs customers more in the long run, then there will be no benefit to a customer by saving money on the initial purchase.

It is time for consumers and business owners to take a stand for customer service. As business owners, you should refuse to get in a bidding war based solely on price. When a customer succeeds in drastically lowering the price for your product or service, he not only compromises your profitability, but also lowers the value of your product in his mind.  When he does not value the product, he no longer believes that the lower price was a good value, and his satisfaction dwindles. However, if you adhere firmly to a fair price and provide good customer service, his overall happiness with your business and your product soars. As customers, we should refrain from making purchasing decisions based solely on price. When customer service, accuracy, efficiency, and other factors are disregarded, businesses that provide only the lowest price are the only ones that stay in business. The employees of these businesses must be compensated less to allow for low prices, and the facilities of these businesses must be operated on a slim budget, resulting in a lower quality shopping experience and reduced efficiency. The result is a poor customer experience, wasted time standing in line, and, eventually, wasted money. If your time equals money, why waste it standing in line for your inexpensive product? How much of your time and money have been wasted standing in line correcting a problem with an unsatisfactory product or a mistake made by a poorly trained employee?   

Ask the executives at United Airlines about unhappy customers. They will tell you that customer dissatisfaction spreads across the customer base and to potential customers like a virus. Unhappy customers are more likely to leave negative reviews and discuss their negative experiences with their friends. It costs more to repair a customer satisfaction problem than it does to create the satisfaction in your customers during the initial experience. As a business owner, you should treat your customers as what they truly are-your most important asset.

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Written by blountlaw