The Customer is Always…Right?

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Everyone has heard the phrase, “the customer is always right.” Dating back to 1909, the phrase was coined by Harry Gordon Selfridge, founder of Selfridge’s department stores in London, to persuade employees to give high-priority service to ensure customer satisfaction. Is this mantra still valid in today’s world?

Integrated marketing communication has evolved into a broad and diverse discipline that includes almost everything an organization does: mottos, company policies, the actions of its employees. IMC extends to the consumer-brand relationship and the impression the outside world has of the company. One of the discipline’s guiding principles encourages brands to focus on the customer experience. When aisles are in disarray, call centers are busy, or brand ambassadors are impolite, consumer perception of the brand is affected. All interactions are individual messages sent to the customer, who integrates everything into one central idea of the company, influencing the choice to purchase and desire to return.

Anyone who has worked in retail or sales knows the customer doesn’t always understand that the coupon is expired or the printer is jammed. While the customer might not always be correct, from the company’s standpoint, he or she is usually right. A sales associate may not appreciate the motto, but complaints can point to issues of true concern. Perhaps the company could utilize different signage or invest in new equipment to improve efficiency and the customer experience. Brands need their audiences to believe they put the customer first, to trust that they value the customer’s time, loyalty and feedback. Much of that feedback originates from everyday interactions with the establishment rather than larger, planned communication.

Think about the last time you had a great experience purchasing something. Now think about the worst experience you’ve ever had. Did either occasion involve customer service?

The memorable experience, either positive or negative, probably had something to do with the way you were treated by an employee. Your perception of a brand, referral to a friend, or even your repeat business largely depends on customer service and how comfortable you felt with an organization. All of the business, or lack thereof, that one individual can bring based on their experience places power in the hands of consumers…maybe the customer actually is always right.

2 thoughts on “The Customer is Always…Right?

  1. I enjoyed reading this blog post! I’ve been a cashier for the past 5 and a half years, and, sure customers can be rude and annoying and can have bad days just like the rest of us. But, as I was taught at my job at Food Lion, customer service is EXTREMELY important. Not only does it give me a good feeling on the inside to go out of my way to help a customer out, it also ensures that those customers will be returning. I know at Food Lion, I had multiple customers that would come through my line on purpose because they loved how nice and friendly I was with them. In fact, I’d often close the store and would have the same customers coming in every night to see me and have funny conversations with me. I loved that job simply because I had so many great customers, but the thing is, I wouldn’t have had those wonderful customers if I hadn’t provided them with the exceptional customer service that I did. Even when something wasn’t going right, or they were going to have to wait for any amount of time, I would ALWAYS make sure they were kept in the loop about what was going on so that they understood why things may have been taking too long. Many retail associates don’t understand that this is something that customers appreciate immensely, and we need to go back to putting the customer first no matter what.

  2. I have also been working in retail for years, and this is a phrase I sometimes hear in my sleep. Interestingly enough how you mention IMC extends the consumer-brand relationship because in a corporate setting over the past couple of years I have watched this evolve. As I am now working for a local company and they have always had this established I remember working in a mall where everything was pitched and it seemed staged. Then instead of sounding scripted many stores went to sounding “REAL” is what they called it. Basically becoming more personable and creating a relationship with the customer, making sure they get the product they need and you are helping them for their benefit and not just for the sale. I enjoyed reading this post as I can relate!

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