Customers Think They’re Always Right

BY ANDY COLLIDGE

When you are in a trade or business that is constantly frequented by the public, there inevitably comes that invariable onslaught of thoughts, opinions, requirements and self-indulgence. After only a very short while, you begin, not intentionally, to put people with similar attitudes and characteristics into certain categories.

After a longer while at the mercy of the over-needy public, the more elevated of the service providers attain the ability to rise above the consumer to deal with their personal needs, display only limited emotion, portray an outer facade of congeniality, use proven and tested repartee, plus an air that shows a precise professionalism that is endearing to any and all customers. You become an accomplished actor – John Wayne eat your heart out; Basil Fawlty, you need say no more.

Of course, there are times when, as a service provider, you are not firing on all eight cylinders. Your mind is not focused on ‘being the answer to the all and everything’ that the public are going to demand of you that day. In which case, someone is going to hear the cold truth about their arrogance and needy attitude. Again, this will not intentionally be the objective of the personnel at the forefront; more a consequence of how a crap day unravels. As everyone knows, the truth generally hurts, which will undoubtedly result in a small percentage of customers not wanting to hear the facts regarding their rudeness and limited intelligence.

I must say at this point that the majority of customers are indeed fantastic – wanting and waiting to be served in a civil and polite manner, adhering to a graciousness that they are expecting reciprocated. It is the other percentage that, within an instant of having to wait ten seconds longer that they deem to be necessary, or overlooked by the busyness of a situation, click into this bolshie, I-me-mine, self-important, extremely needy mindset. Behaviour that instantly causes the hackles of a service provider to rise.

The control of these people by the talented service provider – unless, as previously stated,  the service provider is having a crap day – is superb, bordering on exquisite, as they slowly manipulate the over-indulgent beast into a situation that suits their needs; as they metamorphose a volatile situation into a satisfactory conclusion. Not only have I had to manifest this miracle myself, I have also watched on, impressed, as my own staff have had to tackle situations of rudeness and lack of communication skills; soothing and injecting calm into a disgruntled customer; even applying a touch of their own humour to remove the edge from an awkward situation.

What some customers do not comprehend is that not all staff are confident enough to deal with the discourtesy that some consumers communicate – upsetting the provider greatly sometimes, while such consumers derive some misinterpreted satisfaction from their actions.

The most humorous part of the cliché, ‘the customer is always right’, is that Harry Gordon Selfridge, who coined the phrase back in 1909, meant it to be a way of convincing potential customers that the quality of service they would receive would be second to none. What I do not think Gordon realised was that, as time marched on, the phrase became interpreted by a self-indulgent, virtuous few to mean ‘it doesn’t matter what I say or do, I am right and you are wrong’.

You could question my theory, but I have seen it with my own eyes. I have witnessed people who have contrived to cause an issue either to avoid making payment on what they have already had, or already used to their own advantage, and are now trying to return the product or service for a refund. If anyone reading this article is honest with themselves, they have seen it as well, perhaps even done it?

I can, with my hand upon my heart, state, ‘THE CUSTOMER ALWAYS THINKS THEY ARE RIGHT’, and it is a ruling that all service providers should bear in mind when dealing with the general public. You see, the majority of the so-called ‘public’ do not have to deal with the single-mindedness they are content to carry – cosseted in their singular world – while the ‘front of house, or business’ personnel are able to see both sides; being both the customer and the provider.

For the customer that understands the idiosyncrasies of the service provider, I would like to transmit a huge thank you. For the ones that never ever really give it any thought, please think on my words. To the ones that revel in their needy little lives, grow up – you really are not important; just lacking, and in more than one way.

Andy Collidge was raised in Pershore, Worcestershire, then moved to Hertfordshire aged 14. Andy had careers in the Police Force and Fire Brigade, then later in sales. Now, with his wife, Andy owns a successful hotel in the Devon heartlands with an acclaimed restaurant. Although not a Devonian, Andy now regards the county very much as home. Andy has written 6 books, three that are published, with two more coming out this year.