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Customer Service 101 – The Customer is Always Right

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We’ve all heard the phrase “The customer is always right”. The phrase was apparently first coined in 1909 by the founder of Selridge’s Department Store in London. It was used to instil a greater sense of awareness amongst the employees, of their attitude towards customers and how they interacted with them. It is used today, rightly or wrongly, by business to indicate or give the impression of providing good service.

In many businesses today, particularly where there are call centers in place, this has become merely lip service. Nowadays though, with the internet, e-mails and blogs, the networks and people who are linked with working networks, when a client chooses to complain, very few companies can afford not to listen. With the introduction of industry ombudsmen there are even more complaint channels available to people who wish to voice their complaints.

This makes consumer power bigger and better than it has ever been. The question of course is do we, as consumers, complain enough, or do we just put up with bad service, poor quality and indifferent sales people for the sake of a quiet life?

If a client takes the time or the trouble to voice a complaint it should be seen as an opportunity, by the business, to right a wrong, or as a second chance. The fact is that customers who complain give business the opportunity to improve their service and thereby retain the patronage of their clientele.

Ironically, the reality of the situation is that very few of us take the time and trouble to complain or express our dissatisfaction directly to a company usually because the perception is that it is not really worth the effort. Many South Africans just tolerate bad service. What we usually do is ‘vote with our feet’ and of course our voices, when we tell all of our friends, family and colleagues or in fact anyone who will listen, about the bad experience that we had. This does not help the situation at all, as we have not dealt with the root of the problem.

Human nature being what it is though, means that we usually complain a lot more that we praise. So when we moan and groan quite liberally to all and sundry we very rarely spread the news when service or quality is exceptional. The result of this of course that we as consumers have the ability and potential to make or break a small business.

Clearly it is of the utmost importance to deal with customer complaints effectively and efficiently.