The Customer’s Always Right, Right?

Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of the employees, they will take care of the clients.” — Richard Branson

I got a haircut the other day. Long overdue, it looked awful. I went to a place whose brand is sports. So there’s sports on every screen, all the time.

I asked the girl if she gets tired of listening to the same manufactured stories all day. She did. No real surprise there.

“Feel free to change it. I don’t mind.” I told her.

I was the only customer there. It seems that most people had better things to do at 2 pm on a Wednesday. “Oh no, we can’t do that. We’ll get in trouble,” was her response.

Which was ridiculous. Who’s going to get you in trouble? There’s no one else here.

She said they used to put on music if there were no customers. Just to switch it up and retain some sanity. If a customer came in, they switched everything back to sports.

Seems reasonable, no one should get upset with that. Except some customers did. And their management did as well. Again, ridiculous.

So two issues here.

One. If you’re the type of person who becomes legitimately upset because you aren’t exposed to Sportscenter reruns for a grand total of three minutes when you walk into a discount haircutting salon, you need to re-evaluate your priorities.

But some people are just unreasonable. We’ll never be able to please everyone. So we shouldn’t be too surprised when a couple of whiners have a problem.

The real issue is their management. Blindly following the “customer is always right” mentality is short-sighted. Why would they sacrifice their employees’ happiness to appease a customer? A customer who uses his limited personal time to issue meaningless complaints and cause problems for other people. Is that the kind of customer they want? Is that the behavior that they want to reinforce?

As managers, we’ll occasionally side with an unruly customer over our employees. Why?

What’s the cost to acquire a new customer? What’s the cost to replace an employee?

Better yet, what’s the impact of taking an employee whose loyal, motivated, and happily engaged in her job, and turning her into a cynic? Someone who is no longer looking to truly make an impact. Someone who doesn’t look for opportunities to deliver the best experience.

Personally, I’d rather see a person who loves their job than someone who works in a place with sports always on the screen.

Writing helps me realize just how little I know.

Writing helps me realize just how little I know.