The customer is/is not always right

Have you ever heard that phrase, “the customer is always right”?

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Is it true? Is the customer always right?

While I have always done my best to please every customer in my operating days, there were a few customers that I can testify were, indeed, not correct. This brings me to my next point; we should never stop trying to understand and listen to our customers, but we can’t always please everyone, especially customers with extravagant demands.

However, some companies have simply stopped trying to do things right for the customer. Entire industries have simply abandoned the customer service aspect and are strictly prepared to grab whatever they can, while they can, and alienate as many customers as they can along the way. .

For example, airlines. Some cater only to their first-class or first-level frequent-flyer groups; some have given up on all customer service, while others have never even tried to get started.

If you thought airlines were bad before the pandemic, try them now. Flying has become a game of roulette, with flight cancellations being the norm. Getting to your destination on time is now the exception.

In June, I recently spent nearly three hours on an unair-conditioned tarmac in Phoenix, only to be driven back to the gate to refuel, then told we’d be boarding again in an hour. Our flight crew was now over their allotted hours and we had to wait for another crew to arrive for the flight to be canceled an hour later. The gate agent told us she couldn’t help us rebook and we had to go to customer service, which sent the other passengers into scramble mode. The customer service queues were very long, so I decided to go to the airline lounge to see if an agent could help me. Luckily there was an agent available when I walked in. However, that was the end of my good fortune. She told me that the only way for me to get back to Fort Lauderdale was to take a red eye in Philadelphia, spend almost 20 hours at the airport, and then skip a red eye at home, which freaked me out. would bring there Saturday morning. It was currently Thursday evening. I could have (not that I could have) driven the 34 hours from Phoenix to Fort Lauderdale and arrived at the same time.

The alternative was to buy a seat on another airline. One of the discount carriers. One I swore never to steal. They had spots available on a red-eye Thursday night, but not in Fort Lauderdale. They were going to Orlando. I decided to give him a chance. When I said earlier that some airlines never even bother to try when it comes to customer service, this was one of them. Absolutely horrible experience from buying the ticket, to having the most uncomfortable seats in aviation, to the plane was not being picked up so the only drink option was water lukewarm. But, hey, they got me closer to home, and that was our number one goal even though I was dehydrated upon landing.

There was still a three hour rental car ride ahead of me, but you get the idea. Bad customer service from the first airline compounded by bad customer service from the second airline. The first airline, however, pretends to care, but I honestly wonder if it does. If they don’t give employees the tools to take care of the customer, does the airline really care? The second airline doesn’t care, and they’re upfront about it. I guess I can respect their honesty like, “I’d rather crawl through broken glass than fly with your airline again.”

Let’s compare (or contrast if possible) this experience with the one I had the day before my travel saga at a local restaurant. This is not a high priced place; they sell hot dogs, burgers, steak sandwiches, etc.

As we approach the counter, we are greeted by a smiling and friendly young man who welcomes us into the establishment. He asked if we had been there before and let us know that he would be happy to answer any questions we had. After placing our order with him, he thanked us for our business, gave another toothy smile, and told us that our number would be called soon. As promised, our order number was called a few minutes later. The food was excellent, the service was exceptional and the employees were exemplary.

Ask yourself which of these scenarios do customers experience when you wash? Are they treated like the most precious person on Earth or like the Earth beneath our feet?

“Few things generate more goodwill and business loyalty than being easy to manage,” said Matt Wilkerson, CEO of Paragon.

I’ve never met Matt Wilkerson, but I agree with him. I would, however, like to add to his quote; being easy to manage takes effort on our part. The restaurant was easy to manage from the time I walked in to the time I walked out. Completely effortless. They made my visit personal and went out of their way to ensure that their employees treated their customers well. This shows.

Dealing with the airlines was a completely different experience. Nightmare and even demeaning.

Maybe the airlines know they can get away with it because there are so few options. As a result, we are forced to let them treat us this way. Maybe the restaurant knows they can’t get away with it because there are so many alternative restaurants.

Whatever the case, making your business easy to manage should be the goal. The customer may not always be right, but by listening to them, treating them well and with respect, disappointed customers will be rare.

All my wishes!


Bob Fox is the Vice President of Sonny’s CarWash College and has 37 years of industry experience. You can reach Bob at [email protected]

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