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The customer is usually right

The Customer is usually right

The customer is always right.
You’ve said it, you’ve heard it, and hell, you may have put it on a sign. But what happens when the customer clearly isn’t right? What do you do then?

Let me tell you a story from my past.

I was working behind the “upgrades counter” at a major computer store in the summer of 1995.  An average day had me upgrading ram, adding hard drives, and diagnosing problems with the Windows 3.1 operating system. One day, a lady brought her computer in, complaining that it was having problems booting up.

Now, this was at a time in the store’s life that we didn’t first power on the computer to see whether or not the customer was telling the truth. We generally just took their word for it, and attempted to fix their problems. I had her sign the slip, put the computer on the shelf, and hours later started the repair process.

To my surprise, the computer not only had problems booting: it didn’t turn on at all! Out came the screwdriver, and it was time to remove the case to try a new power supply. That’s when I saw cockroaches for the very first time. With closer inspection, I found that a roach was fried over two main power points on the motherboard. Yes, as crazy as this sounds, a cockroach caused an electrical short and the motherboard to be completely fried.

I called in the store manager.  He instructed me to call the woman back to the store to claim her computer.  When confronted with what what we found, the woman denied everything, yelled at us, and started accusing us of putting the roaches in her computer.

My manager caved.  Even though this woman was clearly insane, I ended up replacing the motherboard.  This meant a new CPU and RAM (much better than what she came in with) and it meant giving her a new case that fit.  Oh, and a new video card.  In other words, at the time, she received over $1200 worth of free parts and service by bringing us her clunker and yelling at the store manager.

At the time that this happened, I was stunned.  Why did my manager do this?  What kind of idiot was he?  Who cares that an entire store full of people witnessed this lunatic woman yelling at us about cockroaches!  But then again, that woman went on to be a loyal customer of the store.  People who witnessed the commotion commended my manager for “doing the right thing”.  Of course, they had no idea what really went down.

I’m reminded of this story every time I have to deal with a customer who I think is wrong.  For me, I like to have a “The Customer is always right” sign out in front.  This isn’t a truth;  It’s a policy.  No matter what, they will always be right, even when they’re wrong.

So, what’s your policy?  Is the customer always right, or is the customer usually right?

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  • Chuck Diesel

    Right on Brother!!

  • Todd_Thompson

    Brew, this perfectly illustrates the main point…This isn’t a truth; It’s a policy.

    When good policies become culture everyone thrives.

  • Jessica Jensen

    Whether the customer is right or not it is my job to make sure that I’ve done what I can given a particular situation. The other day a customer called wanting to know if she could stop an order she had just placed. When I explained that the order had shipped she asked if she could send it back. By the end of the phone call she was keeping her order and had placed another one.

    When I called the dealership to ask about a replacement part I remembered the name of the person who answered the phone, by the end of the conversation he had agreed to have his boss drop the part off at my house and I was able to get a discount on the part as well. Handling problematic customers challenges you and helps you grow as a person, I try not to take it personally, I try to put myself in someone else’s shoes and I try not to be like them when I go places. Good post.

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