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Growing up, my parents instilled certain teachings in my brother, sister, and me.    We were taught the sky is the limit, there are no boundaries ( except for Mom and Dad’s curfew ), hard work and perseverance pay off, be on time and be courteous to others, and the notion that ‘the customer is always right’.

I first saw The Customer Is Always Right motto in action in Connecticut.  For those of you familiar with Stew Leonard’s, you will understand.  In each entrance leading into Stew’s, there was a huge rock with these words engrained:

  1. The customer is always right.
  2. If the customer is ever wrong, re-read rule #1.

As a child, I loved going to Stew’s.  It was the Disney of grocery stores.  They had a petting zoo, ice cream shop, cookie samples open and available to try, animatronics that sang and moved.  It was amazing.  Now, I am positive that the things I loved about Stew’s were not my parent’s favorite things, but you would never know.  We, the kids, were entertained, content, and behaving.  What parent wouldn’t love that? 

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My mother spent Sunday mornings perusing the grocery advertisements and clipping coupons.  She would circle the best deals, write them down on a note pad and include the store name, item, and cost.   Sunday afternoons, we would pile in the station wagon and head off down the road for our weekly grocery trip.  Now, the grocery advertisements she looked through were for stores that were 15-20 minutes away from our home, but we never shopped there.  We drove 45 minutes to Stew’s.  

Why you ask?  Well it wasn’t for the free cookie bites, although they were delicious!  It wasn’t the animatronics.  It wasn’t the petting zoo.  All of those things were added bonuses.  It was because Stew’s would do whatever it took to keep the customer happy, satisfied, and coming back.  Stew’s was the first store that would price match ( at least in our area ), and would allow my mom to bring in other stores advertisements, show the competitors prices, then agree to sell at the same price.   The customer is always right in action.  My mom came first.  The focus was on her, what would keep her coming back.   What would make her happy.  The customer is number one.

So here we are MANY years later.  I have a family of my own, and wish grocery trips were as entertaining as they used to be.   Things have definitely changed and evolved, but would The Customer is Always Right motto work in today’s environment?  I would venture to say yes… with a twist.  Perhaps a better catch-phrase would be ‘Do Right by our Customers’.  Sometimes our customers know what they want or what they need, sometimes they don’t,  but if we are able to ‘do right’ by them, then we have formed a connection, built trust, and they will come back to us again and again.  By doing right, we can create a great experience for our customers.

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14 Comments

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  1. Susan Keohan
    Kristen, your message is well received here!  If the customer is not ‘always right’ – and sometimes maybe they are not, we – as professionals – owe it to them (and ourselves) to help them.
    Good on you!
    Sue
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  2. Tom Cenens
    Hello Kristen

    Interesting blog and “do right” is the right way to go.

    I always try to do right for my customers. I won’t go and tell them to implement something I don’t believe in myself. As a consultant it’s my task to guide my customer and help them choose the correct solution even if that solution might be non-SAP.

    Doing that creates a trust relation and the customer will come back to you when they need advice and they won’t go seek out another party to provide them that advice.

    Even stronger your customer can follow you based on the trust relation when you decide to move on to another firm.

    Kind regards

    Tom

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    1. Kristen Scheffler Post author
      Hi Tom,

      Trust and honesty must be at the core of customer interactions.  That leads us to build relationships and eventually (hopefully) earn respect.

      Thanks for your insightful comments.

      Kristen

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  3. Kumud Singh
    Hi,
    ‘Customer is King’ is another phrase that I have known recently.
    Whatever, but even I strongly believe that they should be treated as ‘partners’. (though it would take some time to gain comfort level)
    The solution and the way solution is delivered would make them coming back.But I would also say a lot depends of the working attitude of customers and vendors.
    Trust and honesty should be both ways.

    Regards,
    Kumud

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    1. Kristen Scheffler Post author
      Hi Kumud,

      Partnership, absolutely.  Both sides need to be striving for the common goal, and I agree trust and honesty go both ways.

      Thanks for your thoughts!
      Kristen

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  4. Michelle Crapo
    The customer is not always right.    If you know a better way of doing something challenge them.  Talk about or show the other solution.  The idea is the customer is your partner.  I like that.
    The  customer may not agree with your solution.  In that case, go with what the customer wants.
    I think the consultant needs to learn the soft skills.  How to debate a solution effectively.  The because I always do it this way, doesn’t work with me.  The because XYZ is more customer friendly, I may be more open.  Because XYZ is faster, Oh yes, I would change my mind.
    Keep in mind your customer isn’t always wrong is a great thing.  Your customer isn’t always right either.  But take the time to explain why they aren’t right.

    Smile for a Monday,

    Michelle

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    1. Kristen Scheffler Post author
      Great insight Michelle!
      Effective communication and excellent soft skills do help, and can go a long way building trust and respect. 

      Thanks for your comments!
      Kristen

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  5. Stephen Johannes
    The problem with the modern customer is always right, is that assumption is that customer is looking to engage in “fair relationship” with the company selling that product. As consumers we sometimes forget that companies selling us goods are not charities and need to make a “fair profit” for their goods and services. Unfortunately we as consumers take this as our carte blanche to extract “whats mine” instead of resolving a situation where an honest or not so honest mistake occurs. 

    The difference is simple as whether we as consumers approach a complaint demanding resolution or retribution.  Unfortunately the retribution route appears to be used more than the resolution requests.  Now great companies usually will beyond a resolution and provide an outcome that attempts to wow!

    Finally using the baseball metaphor it means applying the rule “tie goes to runner” when the call could technically be in the company’s favor, provided that it’s not a repeated pattern of extracting something for nothing.  “Generous return policies” have become less existent due to us as consumers abusing the benefit. 

    Take care,

    Stephen

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    1. Kristen Scheffler Post author
      Hi Stephen,

      We certainly see this in many cases. I myself am a bit of an optimist, the glass is always half full.  However, I find myself experiencing the ‘MINE’ approach more often in my home.  Three kids, its bound to happen 🙂
      I hope that more people look for the resolution route, not retribution route.  Again, for me it ties back in to effective communication, soft skills, relationship building.  Things of the past?  I hope not. 

      Thanks for your comments!
      Kristen

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      1. Michelle Crapo
             On both sides.  There always should be a resolution instead of retribution model.  I’m sorry Kristen – am I a glass half empty type, I hope not.

        When it comes down to the end of a project and timelines are not met, it is the “Blame Game”.  Effective project management can help this, but not always solve it.

        That’s why we, as customers, try to only have one consulting firm on a project.  The “blame game” is between us and the vendor.  Not several vendors who are pointing their hands at each other.

        Why is the project running late? Many, many, different reasons.  But one of those is as Stephen says above carte blanche.  We have a fixed bid, and change the requirements mid stream.  We forget to tell them about the code reviews…  There is more.

        Sometimes it is on the consultant’s side.  They are just running late.  Miss estimates, etc.

        Soft skills are the key to resolving both issues.

        My world – I would like to think resolution.  I see retribution more often than not.  On both sides!  We have to pay a hefty fee sometimes based on not defining the project exactly.  I’m not sure who could do that in the begining prior to blueprint.  Oh boy, think we hire that firm again?

        Best,

        Michelle

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        1. Kristen Scheffler Post author
          I don’t think you are a glass half empty type Michelle =)
          There are always going to be obstacles, no matter what.  It’s how we as people react to them.  We don’t all react the same, we’re human, but we can be the ‘bigger’ person and lead by example.  By doing right =)

          Thanks,
          Kristen

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    2. Michelle Crapo
      On both sides.  There always should be a resolution instead of retribution model.  I’m sorry Kristen – am I a glass half empty type, I hope not.

      When it comes down to the end of a project and timelines are not met, it is the “Blame Game”.  Effective project management can help this, but not always solve it.

      That’s why we, as customers, try to only have one consulting firm on a project.  The “blame game” is between us and the vendor.  Not several vendors who are pointing their hands at each other.

      Why is the project running late? Many, many, different reasons.  But one of those is as Stephen says above carte blanche.  We have a fixed bid, and change the requirements mid stream.  We forget to tell them about the code reviews…  There is more.

      Sometimes it is on the consultant’s side.  They are just running late.  Miss estimates, etc.

      Soft skills are the key to resolving both issues.

      My world – I would like to think resolution.  I see retribution more often than not.  On both sides!  We have to pay a hefty fee sometimes based on not defining the project exactly.  I’m not sure who could do that in the begining prior to blueprint.  Oh boy, think we hire that firm again?

      And don’t get me wrong.  Sometimes soft skills do help!

      Best,

      Michelle

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