The Customer Is Not Always Right

Pradeep Salgaonkar

The writer challenges the dictum that ‘the customer is always right’ by sharing examples of high maintenance customers who suck out the thrill of doing business for some

A young graduate, interning as part of the final dissertation work, at one the most renowned retail chains in Goa asks this question to me “Is the customer always right?” – the tried and tested adage in marketing and sales, and what we have been told time and again by our bosses and various experts in the field, that “The customer is always right” and “Do whatever it takes to satisfy the customer” are being questioned by young minds. And yes, they may be right to a great extent, the customer need not be always right and the business will have to weigh the importance of every customer it deals with.

Cited below are three anecdotes that highlight the point made above;
1) Here is a customer who buys fresh meat from a store. Ideally fresh meats are not stored for long; or if are to be kept for long, they are to be packaged and stored at appropriate temperature. This customer comes back to the store after 15 days and complains of the store selling spoiled meat to them. She says in spite of being a regular customer of the store, she is being cheated by being sold spoiled meat. She gets into argument with the Customer Service Representative (CSR). However, the CSR apologises profusely to her and asks as to when did she purchase and open the meat packet, and the customer reveals that it was opened after 12 days from the date of purchase. Besides the long period, probably the storage and temperature conditions, due to fluctuations in current, also might have added to the problem. The CSR tries to explain to the customer what must have happened, but the customer gets irrational, illogical and continues arguing in raised voice, creating a scene within the store. The CSR handles the customer tactfully and manages to pacify her by offering a 5% discount on her purchases for the day. However, the question remains ‘is the customer right’?

2) A retail store runs a discount scheme that, if the payments are done through a particular private bank’s credit card, then customers would get 4% discount. Generally this fact is clearly told to customers in advance, and also made clear that discount scheme is available only on that particular private bank’s credit card. Here is this customer, let’s call him ‘Anish’ who comes to the store with his friends. He does shopping of whatever goods he wants and comes for billing. As usual Anish was also informed about the scheme that the store was running  i.e 4% discount on the bill if the payment is done using a particular private bank’s Credit Card. The bill is produced and Anish makes payment using Google pay, probably which might be linked to the same bank’s card, and claims for the discount. Since the payment is not done via credit card, there is no discount available. He gets wild and accuses the billing clerk of cheating and fraud. The clerk tries to explain, but to no avail. Anish is shouting and abusing the billing clerk and it is a bad situation in store. Are such customers worthy?

3) A newly married couple on a honeymoon trip with a reputed tour agency gets into a confrontation with the tour agent assigned by the company for that tour. As a part of tour package, customers were taken to a particular island from the main land. The only mode of travel was ferryboat that shuttles between the island and mainland. The frequency of ferryboat is hourly. So in case anyone misses a particular ferryboat then that person had to wait for one hour for next ferryboat, plus travel time. The tour agent before taking customers to the ferryboat, for onward journey, had very clearly instructed everyone that they have about two and half hours’ time to spend on the island and that they have to catch the 4 pm ferryboat, for which they should reach the ferry point latest by 3.50 pm. Again, after reaching the island, before the group could disperse, the tour agent reminded all members that they have to be at ferry point by 3.50 pm, and that if anyone doesn’t reach on time and happen to miss ferry boat, then they have to make arrangements to reach the hotel on their own.

At the designated time all group members took the ferryboat and reached back to mainland and into their bus. When the entire group boarded the bus, the tour operator noticed that two seats were empty. That means two people had not returned back and were still on the island. Surprisingly, nobody could make out who these two people were, as the couple, since the time tour started, had never interacted with any other members of group. The tour agent spotted that it was the honeymoon couple, and tried to reach them on phone, but could not connect. Later, others too tried to reach them over phone, but no luck. The group then took a unanimous decision to wait behind for another hour, so that the couple is not put to hardships. After wait for one hour, the couple is seen coming hurriedly towards bus. As they were entering the bus, the man starts yelling at tour guide, questioning her as to why they were left behind and why didn’t she wait behind for them to come. He went on to say that it is the responsibility of the tour guide to ensure that everyone has come and that she can’t be negligent about her duty. The tour guide tried to tell them that it was instructed to all clearly to come on time to ferry point and catch the 4 pm ferryboat, but to no good. The man was hyper and in mood to argue. It is then that fellow members of the group intervened and asked the man to shut up, because it was his mistake not to come on time and that they had wasted one hour of all other group members. What an illogical customer is this!

Well the point is, not all customers are right. There are irrational and illogical customers, and there are also argumentative customers. Yet some others always seek undue benefits and advantages. It is not worthwhile pampering and striving to keep such customers for life. It is better to do away with some customers, as greed and
irrational behaviour has no easy cure.

Mobile Ad 1

Mobile Ad 2