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The Customer is Not Always Right
Article by Sam Horn
“One of the best decisions we made this past year was asking one of our clients to take his business elsewhere," confessed Pat, a financial broker.

That rather startling announcement captured the attention of everyone in our Take The Bully By The Horns seminar. “Why was that?” asked one curious participant.

“This individual took up a disproportionate amount of our time. He was a grump with a lot of free time and money on his hands, and he decided our office was his favorite place to hang out. He would come in 3-4 times a week and boss our staff around, ordering them to make minor buys and sells, and then changing his mind minutes later.”

“If one of his stocks performed badly, he would blame us even though he had made the changes against our advice! We dreaded him walking in the door, because we knew we wouldn’t be able to get any of our other work done.”

“I tried several times to diplomatically let him know that we were not his personal servants, but he brushed me off. I finally gave him an ultimatum and told him he needed to start treating us with respect and let us handle our other responsibilities. He got angry and told me in no uncertain terms that ‘We worked for him, and he would do what he darn well pleased.’”

“That was it,” Pat pronounced. “I told him we had done our best, but that this was no longer a win-win situation. I told him we would be closing his account with us and he was welcome to find another investment counselor who could satisfy his needs. You can’t believe how relieved we are not to have to deal with his over-the-top rudeness.”

This broker’s experience is in line with the “It’s about time!” response I’ve received from professionals across the country to the epiphany that, “The customer is NOT always right.”

“The customer is always right" philosophy has been an oft-repeated management mantra for years. The mandate for service-providers is to keep customers satisfied, even when that means rewarding rule-breakers who purposely violate the laws of fairness and common decency.

Squeaky wheels not only get the grease, they often get the whole ball of wax.

I say, “Let’s rethink this.” Our strength taken to an extreme becomes our weakness. Compassion is a lovely quality– however, taken to an extreme, it means we put everyone else first and ourselves last. A policy of doing our best to please customers is wise. Doing our best to please customers who repeatedly mistreat our employees is not.

The smart thing is to give our staff the authority to determine when it is no longer in the company’s best interests to appease a customer. If you have consistently tried to resolve a complaint and the customer refuses to meet you half-way -- and if you perceive that continued efforts to solve this situation won't succeed – then it is cost-and-time effective to cut your losses by saying, “This decision is final” so you can turn your attention to customers you can help.

This rather bold suggestion is excerpted from Take The Bully By The Horns: Stop Unethical, Uncooperative, Unpleasant People from Running and Ruining Your Life.

Chapter 21 suggests we ask ourselves, "Is this Deja Moo? Have I heard this bull before?” If a bully client has a history of verbally abusing our staff and/or shows no willingness to cooperate, we might be better off ending that relationship so we can concentrate on customers who honor our policies and choose to respond in kind.

Yes, this is stated simplistically, and yes, there are caveats. However, the point of this article is simply to suggest that it’s in your best interests to reassess your habitual ways of handling “troublemakers.” As pundit Ed Howe said, “Instead of loving your enemies, treat your friends a little better.”