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:
- The customer is always right.
- 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?
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.