Is the Customer Really Always Right?


“Sir, again, I’m so sorry about that. It seems like…”


He had a right to be perturbed. He’d placed a large order for an office lunch online, but there was a glitch in the system that had us scrambling to get his food ready with short notice.

I got right in there with the staff, to make sure this man’s food got to him as soon as possible. But I wanted to do more than just that. I wanted to go above and beyond to make him feel happy.

“Here sir, I want to extend this to you as a courtesy,” I warmly explained, as I reached into my pocket. “These cards will allow you and a friend to be our guests the next time you’re here, so we can take care of lunch for you.”

“I don’t want that! I’ll never be back here.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that; I really don’t want you leaving our restaurant upset,” I said, as I handed him the last of his bags of rushed-out food.

I wanted to go above and beyond again. I went into the system and comped the food for him.

He took off with few words. I felt disappointed. Dealing with guest issues was something I was always good at. People definitely can get grumpy when they’re hungry! But I worked at having a really warm demeanor in my approach, listening carefully to what was bothering them, and displaying real empathy in my response. In almost every case, this worked to quickly rectify the situation.

While this man was rude, and seemed like he didn’t even want to be made happy, I didn’t like that he was storming out of a business that I was personally responsible for managing. But I took solace in the fact that I treated him with dignity. I heard him out. I was respectful. I took care of his food for that day, and offered to do the same for him the next time he was there… which would be “never”, according to him.

But he was wrong. He was back two weeks later.

As I made my rounds to check on how all of the guests in the restaurant were doing, I caught his eye as I passed his table. I gave him a warm hello. And he did the same.

“Everything is great,” he replied kindly, “Thank you so much for your help.”

I knew he had our last encounter on the mind. And I felt victorious. I felt like I had been able to turn around a bad situation and won over a guest who had promised never to return.

It really boiled down to the old saying of “the customer is always right.” Of course there are those instances when they are completely off-base, overreacting, impolite, unreasonable… but in the long run, that does not matter. What matters is having someone feeling satisfied with the experience he or she had with your business, wanting to come back again.

And that’s what was important for me in this situation. If I had let this man’s gruff demeanor affect my pride to the point that I ignored his complaints, brushed him off as “some grumpy guy” or let his anger cause mine to bubble up, then this would not have ended successfully. But instead, here he was, back at our restaurant and having a great experience. It made me feel really good.

I really liked Brian Honigman’s quote on his blog entry at Kissmetrics, “10 Ways to Make Customers Fall in Love with Your Business”, where he stated:

Keeping your patience is key to giving your customer the time to air out their issue. And, in turn, it creates the opportunity for you to help resolve the issue and make them comfortable. The more comfortable the customer is the more likely they’ll share valuable feedback that can help prevent similar issues from occurring again in the future.

Yes, being patient is always so key to dealing with upset people and turning their experience around. Once they sense that this is a two way street, they’re all the more likely to warm up to you and be back to your establishment again.

I really do feel passionate about making people happy. Often, it can be an occasion to swallow any inkling of pride and decide to instead overflow with respect, kindness and empathy.

A customer leaves feeling that his negative experience has been turned around, and you were the one who was able to do it.

Everyone wins.