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Temi A: The Customer is Not Always Right

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I have a somewhat diverse CV; and whilst I have not loved every single job I have undertaken, they have provided valuable opportunities to understand human interaction as it occurs in different positions and establishments. From colleges to law firms, voluntary organisations etc, there is a theme of underlying mutual respect. Tempers will flare occasionally; however, the notion of mutual respect prevailed in most cases. Majority of customers or service receivers did not think their money entitled them to anything but the service they paid for.

This concept of mutual respect gradually declines as you contemplate the relationship between the customer and “low wage” service providers – with shop keepers and wait staff touted as the biggest culprit in Team Forever Rude.
A friend recently came back from a visit to Nigeria and the only thing he had to put on his Facebook page soon after his return was how bad the customer service was. From Lagos to London, complaints abound as to customer service standards, and it seems as if unsatisfactory customer service is de rigueur.

I suspect that the reason for our discontent with customer service stems from the fact that the starting point for most transactions is “the customer is always right”. It is one of the most negative consequences of capitalism; the belief that spending money elevates a person to a position of immediate respect without the need for the money spender to give the same in return. It is certainly from the vantage point that a paying customer has the right to be treated with a certain level of respect and “fanfare” that the phrase ‘the customer is always right’ emanated. It is irrational and illogical to state that the customer is always right, outside of that context for all the common sense reasons involved. How far on the scale of “customer service” will £10 or £1,000 go then? How do we manage the money spender’s expectation of their own monetary worth and value? It is impossible to navigate or quantify this adequately, and I posit this might be one of the reasons for our dissatisfaction with service we receive. We begin our conversations with low wage service providers from our cocoon of monetary rightness and superiority, and that reflects in our conversation and attitude to service providers.

A relationship that commences with one party accruing more power due to their supposed monetary value reinforces the opinion that money and not people is what matters – a wholly capitalist belief that does not foster human connection or growth in any real sense.
We place the customers on a pedestal that the service providers must strive to accommodate with smiles regardless of the customer’s terrible attitude. Retail workers, waiters, cashiers e.t.c are human. To expect them to suspend their individuality and humanity between the hours of 9am- 5pm, or its equivalent, and always wear a smile no matter the ridiculousness they have to withstand from ill-mannered people is a ludicrous notion in itself.
By promoting this culture, we remove the responsibility of being better communicators, and being better people from the society at large and enable selfish, spoilt and entitled behaviour.

The provision of goods or services in whatever capacity is not equivalent to servility, yet some behave as if they have been eternally wronged when waiters, or store keepers do not show them the “due respect”, which they think they deserve, or give them “attitude”.

It is as if we conveniently forget that the responses we get from people usually mirrors our behaviour to them. There has been a lot of narrative about bad customer service providers, and not enough about us customers or the consumer mentality. If you find yourself saying “the customer is always right” 4 out of 7 days a week, then my darling, stop pursuing the rightness of your claim and work on yourself because you are the problem.

Photo Credit: Kiosea39 | Dreamstime.com

I like to believe that I am entirely focused on building a career as a Solicitor, but my love for Food and Yoruba movies poses a serious threat to this dream.

4 Comments

  1. yourfadaoneeye

    February 24, 2017 at 9:40 am

    I made a oath years back to my humble self, to never engage or trade words with ANYBODY in the market place either for bad service or attitude. i failed once, though it wasn’t for me and it was in a bank….a man struggled into this bank with clutches and had spent close to 70minutes unattended to, the bank’s miserable security man came to ask him to re-park his car outside,…in that condition? Trust me, it took the bank manager to calm me down sef. while i insisted the man be attended to immediately!

  2. anonymous

    February 24, 2017 at 9:53 am

    errm, some people are rude to people that are nice to them because in their reasoning powerful people should be rude. I have seen drivers and cleaners take you for granted just because you are nice to them oh, Once I notice such people, I just decide to keep a distance and stay aloof. I refuse to be rude because rudeness is the only form of power you respect.

    Some insecure people are also rude too. If a young successful person is being served by someone a bit older who maybe sees the person’s success as a reminder of their personal failures, then they may be rude just to feel better about themselves and of course the customer will respond rudely too afterall. he/she is paying

  3. anon

    February 24, 2017 at 11:58 am

    Lol! I love this …but that is not to rule out some really bad eggs among service providers attendants

  4. Mercy Ebuetse

    February 25, 2017 at 6:13 pm

    Here is my two cents: The concept of “the customer is always right” is closely tied to customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction may be closely linked to respecting customers but that’s not all that is required for customer satisfaction. It is closely linked to determining “perceived value” from the customers perspective. Although, Steve Jobs believes that the customers do not know what they want except you give it to them. However, the customers knows what they want which in this case is “apple”. Customers always know what they want which is “quality products/service”

    In giving the customer “quality” which is want they want you must understand that the customer is always right – this isn’t a respect thing directly or accepting bad treatment from a customer.

    It can be seen from the angle of – give the customer what they want by Joe Albertson. But the principles put a limit on fraudulent customers. Hence, both principles is based on quality service/value for customer satisfaction which leads to profit for the organization. Not solely because of the money of the customer but because they know that customer satisfaction leads to profit and growth.

    Customer service is not for everyone. So technically, no one is expected to be untrue to themselves. If you are a people person then customer service or sales is a great career option . Also, from lean perspective the organization is expected to respect it’s workers which directly affects how the customers treats such employees. Every business is built on customer satisfaction (irritable customers or not) and one wrong service/quality can be damaging for a business.

    So, the concept of the customer is always right goes beyond the customers money and respect. In fact this isn’t the basis for the customer is always right.

    P.s: I apologize for the length. I am passionate about this topic.

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