Enterprise

Instances where customers should be told they are wrong

saleswq

Summary

  • We must appreciate that there are instances, and there are many of them, when the customer is wrong and need to be told so.
  • No business is capable of attracting and serving all customers.
  • That why we have different classes of, say hotels, hospitals, schools and other facilities to cater for different taste and classes of customers.

I was sipping my coffee as I waited for a friend to join me in a restaurant in Nairobi’s Kilimani area the other day.

A drama that was unfolding in adjacent table drew my attention. It is the least thing I expected from such a place usually patronised by civilised people.

One of the two ladies did not get her order as she expected and vented all her anger on a poor waiter who apologised but nevertheless tried to explain to her that there was nothing wrong because that is exactly how the meal is prepared, only that her taste and experience were different.

The noisy insults and complaints from the lady attracted the manager who came promptly and sided with the waiter. The lady got even more agitated with her friend joining in with unsolicited advice to the manager that the customer is always right.

The manager stood his ground and stated that there was nothing wrong with her order because that is how they did it at their restaurant and candidly advised the lady to patronise other place where she would find what she wanted rather than disrupt peace.

This led me to think more on the misapplication of the narrative that the customer is always right. I think this is the greatest lie that does more harm than good to business.

We must appreciate that there are instances, and there are many of them, when the customer is wrong and need to be told so.

No business is capable of attracting and serving all customers. That why we have different classes of, say hotels, hospitals, schools and other facilities to cater for different taste and classes of customers. Sometimes you will find one or two straying into the wrong place.

As a business leader it is upon you to guide them out politely without bending your processes or hurting your employees.

I salute that manager for the way he protected his employee from unreasonably irate customer.

I subscribe to the narrative that an employee is more important than the customer. If you make your employee happy, important and respected they will treat customers well and your business thrives.

If you make your employees feel worthless, less important because of one pushy or fussy customer, they will feel demotivated and lose energy and enthusiasm to serve other customers. In the end you will lose the customer as well.

Business owners and managers who always side with customers regardless of the situation simply because the customer is paying, send the wrong signal to the employees.

They are simply saying the game is only fair if the customer is winning; that employee has no right to demand respect and fairness when dealing with customers; that employees have to do everything at the pleasure of the customer and that employer puts money first and above everything else. Employees too have their own rights.

They deserve respect and fair treatment from both customers and business owners.

Mr Kiunga is a business trainer and the author of The Art of Entrepreneurship: Strategies to Succeed in a Competitive Market.

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