Is The Customer *Always* Right?

Do you want my opinion?  (If not, you really shouldn’t be reading my blog).  Business owners who buy into the “Customer is always right” myth are fools destined for a special kind of hell where they’re always so close to heaven… yet it perpetually remains just out of their grasp.

Have I just committed Business Blasphemy?

I think not.

I own a business because of the lifestyle it affords me.  I value my freedom.  I value my time.  I value my family.  Etc.  Etc.  Etc.  Isn’t that why you’re in it?

So here’s the deal… doesn’t it make sense to choose good partners for my business?  People I actually enjoy working with?  If you’ve ever had a “bad” partnership in business you know what a miserable life it can create.  Mismatched goals and visions.  Unfulfilled expectations. Blame for everyone.  And even when you make money doing it… do you actually get the *lifestyle* you are seeking.

And if you don’t know the answer to that… it’s no.

I am NOT a business prostitute.  And I think it’s okay to say that loud and proud.  Nor am I a pimp who will sell my products, services and support to anyone with a buck to give me.

My customers are my partners.  And I deserve good partners.  So do my customers.

So why try and force a relationship that doesn’t work.  I ought to be able to choose my partners just like they choose me.  Right?

All this is in response to a support email I received this morning.  My (former) customer decided it would be a good idea to let me know just how stupid I am.  Wanted to especially make sure I knew that I could “**** off.”  Oh… yeah… and I got a warm-hearted and richly deserved “**** you” as an added bonus.

And then this customer gave me a true gift.  I could either fix the problem (a 20 second fix, I might add) or refund his money.

No contest.

His money was refunded about 2 minutes later.  Please note that it took me longer to refund the money than it would have taken to issue the support response.

I thanked him for clarifying the kind of customer he was and let him know his refund was done.

As expected, he replied back with a nasty email once again making sure I knew how truly stupid I am and how little I must understand business.  Because, and I quote, “Customers are aways right and worth a fortune as they are hard to replace.”

And… “now I know why, you know nothing about business and how they run, or why would you ever auto down grade an PAID client or not apoligize for such a stupid thing to do”  All spelling, punctuation and grammar errors are as written, by the way… I’m not that creative.

So, here’s the deal.  What if my business isn’t just about raking in as much money as possible?  As it stands I’d be more than willing to put my income up against his income if that’s his measuring stick.  I don’t know for sure… but I’m guessing I would run circles around him.

But that’s not even the point.  I’m in business because it allows me to live a life I enjoy.  And that life is largely free of asses and jerks that I don’t want to deal with.  The flip side of that is that I truly love the people I do work with.

Like anyone else, I drop the ball on occasion.  I have customers that aren’t always pleased with my answers or my schedule.

And I also have customers (and non-customers) who are shocked when I give out my phone number and invite them to call me.  And then I talk for as long as they want about business and marketing.  And I give of my time and energy at a level that is totally disproportionate to the product I sell.

Why?  Because I *LOVE* what I do!  Love It!

And I love it because I only  choose to work with customers (my partners) who are a perfect fit for me.

And that, my friend, is a much, much, *much* better and easier way to build a successful business.  And you’ll actually love what you do and be able to pour your passion into it far more effectively.

The funny thing for me is that the software side of my business is a very small part of what I do online.  I do it because I get a rush out of people using my tools and knowing who I am.  It’s a modified ego trip, really.  And if you’re a customer of mine that can be good news or bad.

On the one hand, I’m overly passionate about what I do.  I get involved at a level far beyond the income or price would justify.  When you learn how to tap into that as a customer / partner you’ll think it’s the coolest thing ever and how all business should be done.

And, on the other hand, I’m overly passionate about what I do.  And I won’t waste my time with ingrates and abusive people who somehow think they own me because they paid me a little bit of money.  Have your money back.  It’s not about that (which you can’t really know until you’ve got a little bit of it and you realize it doesn’t change anything).  It’s about the relationship.  And respect.  And doing cool stuff together that we couldn’t do apart.

As a business owner I *absolutely* reserve the right to be in relationship with people that move my life’s mission forward.  I will fire customers in a heartbeat who rail against my vision and purpose.  And I have a much better life and business for it.  Am I wrong?

9 Comments Is The Customer *Always* Right?

  1. ChuckB

    Amen brother! Another facet of the “entitlement society” we (or, well 52% of us) have become. I fired half my book about 4 years ago. By God’s grace, I make twice as much now, and worry alot less. Feels good. Is good.

  2. Taylor

    That guy is an idiot. Talk about killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

    Life is too short to dance with nasty customers…

  3. Geoffrey

    Your right in what you say Matt. This guy deserved no help. There is a nice way to go about things in life and business and this guy had not got it or deserved the help.

    The phrase “The customer is always right” was originally coined by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store in London in 1909, and is typically used by businesses to:

    Convince customers that they will get good service at this company
    Convince employees to give customers good service
    Fortunately more and more businesses are abandoning this maxim – ironically because it leads to bad customer service.

    Here are the top five reasons why “The customer is always right” is wrong.

    1: It makes employees unhappy.

    2: It gives abrasive customers an unfair advantage.

    3: Some customers are bad for business.

    4: It results in worse customer service.

    5: Some customers are just plain wrong.

    Keep up the great work Matt.

  4. Alan


    I agree 100% with you. My family owns an auto repair shop. If the customer was always right there would be a lot of cars in our town that were accidents waiting to happen. The customer is not always right, no one is.

    My motto is, “Always treat the customer right.” In your example you treated the customer right. You got rid of him.

    Another thing I tell our guys and you mentioned it too is, “Sometimes you just gotta fire some customers.”

    Keep up the great work.


  5. Alan

    P.S. I’ve had very unreasonable customers and told them (only a couple of times), “I’ll make this concession for you if you’ll do me a favor.” The reponse is, “What’s that?” I’ll say, “I’ll do this if you’ll promise me you’ll never come back again.” You should see the look on their faces. Priceless.

  6. admin

    @Alan I really like that modification… “Always treat the customer right.” Especially when you realize that the “right” thing to do might be to part ways. Sometimes that’s the solution that leads to the best results for everyone involved.

  7. ilya

    matt, i read your lines and thinking, when i`ll grow up i want to be like you, with this kind of integrity.

  8. Terence Milbourn

    In working with successful entrepreneurs over the years, I’ve discovered there’s a genuineness about them that’s admirable. They say what they do and do what they say.

    Their convictions are carried outside the office to their everyday lives. Their convictions are their value system and it is inherent in their business lives too. And when a business shares their good values, consistency is created, and when consistency is created, businesses come alive.

    You are you passionate about your convictions. You have the guts to step up and say, “I don’t like that. That’s not right,” even if a deal benefits you.

    Because you know, a good deal is made only when both parties benefit equally in the end result.

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