Marketing Myths: Part 2—The Customer Is Always Right

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To combat the surplus of bad marketing information that’s all around us, I’ve started the “Marketing Myths” series. If you missed the first installment of the series, you can check it out here:

Marketing Myths: Part 1—Every Customer Should Love Your Brand

Today, I’m tackling perhaps the most pervasive myth in all of business: The customer is always right.

How many times have you heard that? You may believe it, and you may even preach it to your employees. You might think that you have to bend over backwards to please a customer, no matter how unreasonable they’re being. You might be afraid that if you don’t kiss your customer’s behind, he will leave you forever and convince the world that your company is the worst ever.

But the truth is the customer isn’t always right. And in many cases, rather than bending over backwards to appease them, you’re better off simply letting them go.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you should automatically get defensive and cut ties any time a customer makes a complaint. I fully believe that you should always try to smooth things over if at all possible. You need to figure out what the customer is upset about and what, if anything, can be done to fix the problem.

However, there are often situations where a customer is being unreasonable.

Let me give you an example.

Several years back, I had a client who was starting up a commercial construction business. I was hired to write their website copy and a number of blog posts. We had a contract that outlined my fees, and the client agreed to them.

When the project was finished, I invoiced the client. He mailed me a check, but it was short of the invoice amount. I assumed it was just a mistake, but when I emailed the client to see what had happened, he responded that while it was a mistake, he didn’t feel compelled to pay the rest because he didn’t think it was really all that much work to do what I did.

WTF?!?

Obviously, I didn’t take “the customer is always right” approach to handling this situation. No, I stood my ground, and fought for the rest of my payment. When the client came back apologizing and wanting me to work on another project, I refused. In short, I fired the customer.

Now, not all disputes will be so ridiculous in nature, but you will probably encounter situations where customers are clearly wrong and you need to stand your ground. Not all customers are right for your business. Often times, your business (and your mental health) will be better off by letting the customer go away angry.

Do you think the customer is always right?

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