Posted on Jun 01, 2011
This mantra is often repeated as though it is a fundamental law of nature. Certainly the more we read management and business books emanating from the USA , the more we are convinced that American writers believe it. Perhaps it was written down on one of those lumps of stone Moses lugged down the mountainside.
But because it wasn't as salacious as the rules on what not to do with your neighbour's wife, it didn't get as much press. Of course the reality in the USA is often that the customer is always right in the mission statement on the wall, but not in the reality of day-to-day interactions. We have read the story about department store Nordstroms so many times we wonder if in fact it is an urban myth - that's the one where a Nordstrom's employee refunded a customer who was unhappy with some automobile tyres they had purchased - even though Nordstroms don't sell (and never have) tyres.
Is the customer always right ? And what impact does blind adherence to this mantra have? We would make a case that in fact pandering to " the customer is always right" is in fact to the detriment of not only our own businesses - but to the entire commercial landscape. It encourages the customer to speak up and out - even when they are wrong. We are not in any way making a a case against the pursuit of excellence in customer service - rather that in fact operational and service excellence is easier to achieve and maintain when we don't spend time pandering to customers who are patently wrong. And further, that we all have a duty to highlight when a customer is in fact wrong - not ignore it or indulge it. From our own experience we recall driving 250km in the dead of night, over a mountain range, and in a thunderstorm, to get an emergency order to a customer. We can also recall very clearly that the customer then took 90 days to pay! There is more than one angle to every situation, and very often "the customer is always right" demands excellence in exchange for ignorance.
In the real estate industry, it does no one any favours for an agent to show a potential client a property for which they have not been qualified. It wastes the agents time, which they could better use on a more productive task (perhaps getting some training, or even another job if they don't know how to pre-qualify). It wastes the prospects time as they could have been better employed looking at something for which they have been qualified, and is more suitable. Or even working on their own business. We have been vocal in the past in expressing our view that real estate should not be about "show and tell" - it should be much more than that. For many prospective clients, a leasing or purchasing transaction is something that will occur only once every few years at most. On that basis, most clients will either be out of touch, or not understand, the market and the process when they come to buy or lease. Surely therefore, a major part of our task should be to qualify and inform - rather than simply act as a tour guide. Most potential clients don't know what they don't know, and therefore qualifying their needs, wants and capabilities before we start the tour - is to everyone's ultimate benefit.