Very often, all it takes is a few minutes behind the counter (or phone or chat function) to put this question front-and-center in our thoughts. Although retail or business transactions should, at their core, be a simple matter of give-and-take, they sometimes cause those of us on the service side to question our very faith in humanity and the career path we’ve chosen. Whether it’s that customer who simply won’t take no for an answer on pricing; the one that insists they’re the only clients we have and, demand all of our time and resources despite sometimes modest returns; or any other type of “nightmare scenario”, many of the clients we service on a daily basis can cause us to question the very meaning of justice and whether or not we’re cut out for the business world. Do we need to be coaching the customer?
As cryptic as this claim may sound, the customer is very often only as right as we allow them to be. It’s not unreasonable to go above and beyond to try and satisfy our customers, whether we’re selling them a pair of pants, a house or business software; however, we have to remember that when we’re asked to cut corners or make exceptions, we run the risk of breaching the rules and protocols that we put into place for a reason when we decided to start own businesses or go to work in a certain industry. The question of whether or not the customer is always right is very much a situational one. While going above and beyond to serve our customers’ needs can easily boost our market-share, in addition to being the right thing to do, taking this position to extremes can put undue stress on our staff, leading to high turnover, lack of productivity and a host of other everyday problems.
Fairness and civility in everyday life can be an effective blueprint for those in the business or retail industries. We all make mistakes, and when those mistakes negatively impact a customer’s experience, we should make every effort to rectify the situation, even if that means making concessions. It’s dangerous, however, to get into the habit of appeasing the unreasonable requests we all encounter on a regular basis. None of us like to be taken advantage of; however, none of us like to have to be nasty to others, either–those who do are in the wrong line of work. If we remember the tenets of basic human decency during a particular thorny transaction, a task that is admittedly often easier said than done, we will find our own answers to this question. When all else fails, stick to the principles of business that got you there in the first place.