Customer Is King – King isn’t always right

You see, having engaged and monitored customer care in several industries spanning from Retail to telecoms I have seen a lot of customer interaction. I recently remembered a story by Hans Christian Andersen that I read as a child called The Emperor’s New Clothes. It was a story about a King who was fooled into believing an outfit had been made from a special cloth. The cloth and the outfit made from it would only be seen by the intelligent and those worth of the offices they held. He desired to be a leader who was always right and also to be constantly flattered and pampered while he focused on the wrong things. That is how he set himself up for the fall. Yes the customer is King, and if the King thinks he is always right it’s only a matter of timer before he makes a fool of himself. I like to think the customer is King and the Customer services agent is his advisor (and not his court jester as most would like to believe.) The wrong mentality while thinking yourself as king will only make you a target.

The Emperor's not so grand new clothes
image credits:

One of the most heard phrases where there is customer interaction is that customer is king. I agree with that notion, at the end of the day it is the customers’ patronage that keeps our businesses afloat. If not for the customers, the ticking cash-flow would tick no more, the river of funds would dry out and death would ensue.

Often, accompanying that statement I hear people throw the phrase “the customer is always right.” I would like to believe that this phrase was coined more for use from the service provision side than from the customer side. As a person providing customer care it is good to follow that phrase, not because it’s always true but to keep you from arguing with customers; most of who can be total pricks. The problem often comes when the customer uses the phrase customer is always right. This is how as a consumer you complain and rant but nothing gets solved for you. When that happens you must really feel like the Emperor in his new clothes when the crowd finally shouts, “…but he’s got no clothes on!”

Here are two ways to ensure as a consumer you don’t end up like the Nude emperor:

1. Know what you Bought

I have often seen customers come through doors kicking and screaming about how they were robbed or how they were shortchanged. Sometimes it is actually a case where they are right and didn’t get what they paid for, but too often its all embarrassment. A lot of consumers want to come back screaming when a product does not do what they want it to do. This is even if the product actually does what it was meant to do. As a consumer, reading will save you a lot of unnecessary tantrums. A lot.

People seem to forget that when you buy a product there are terms and conditions implied either explicitly or implicitly but more than anything else the product is the product. You bought the product as it is. If you would like to see some improvements, give feedback, do not make noise. If it makes business sense your feedback will be taken into account. If not, just buy the product that does what you want. Often times people are trying to superimpose competitor products on businesses, saying things like, “Well Product X does this for me”. All products are different, this is not product X.

2. If you made a mistake just say it

As consumers we love to complain about how poor service is at certain places, don’t even get me talking about call centres. The truth though is sometimes we are the reason. I would hate to generalize, so I will keep this local. Zimbabwean customers love to feign ignorance when they are in the wrong. They will send the customer service agent on a wild goose chase only for the agent to finally come back to where we all realize that the customer made a mistake. The customer however won’t admit, claiming its the agent who found this error.

I think this personality comes from a constant desire for refunds and a fear that they will be penalized if they admit it was their fault. The truth is that being honest and supplying all information is the best way to get excellent customer service. I would love to see what would happen if the agent feigned ignorance to your mistake as well.That query would go unresolved; and who would be stuck parading out in the nude?.

Another strategy Zimbabwean customers use when they make a mistake is product blaming. It is really sad though. “The product was broken that’s why!” “You didn’t explicitly say to me!” Customers feel that if they complain and tell you that they are King and that they are always right it changes that they either misused the product or just made a mistake.Honesty is the best policy.

There is a lot of bad customer service out there but as consumers lets not make it worse. Before I complain I always take a deep breath, gather my thoughts and facts then weigh whether I’m in the wrong or not. Sometime I end up just asking nicely. The results are amazing. So lets continuously improve ourselves as consumers… #kaizenYOU


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