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.