“Is the customer always right?” I was once asked.
After a moment of consideration, I answered, “The customer is always the customer.”
The customer, being the customer, always deserves to be treated with respect.
The customer always deserves your full attention.
The customer always deserves your honesty provided in a respectful way, even when they don’t agree with your position, demanding the answer that want, be it the correct answer or not.
There is an amazing customer service story told by Pete Nordstrom on The Nordy Pod podcast.
Nordstrom shared that almost 40 years ago at a Nordstrom store in Fairbanks, Alaska a store associate noticed a customer rolling a pair of tires into the store. When the associate asked how he could help, the customer asked to return the tires, insisting that he bought the tires at that very location with a guarantee that he could bring them back to the store at any time.
Of course, Nordstrom never sold tires. But in 1975, it purchased three stores from a company that did – Northern Commercial of Alaska, a company that offered an eclectic mix of goods– everything from towels and linens to automotive supplies.
When Nordstrom took over the locations, it narrowed the merchandise mix to apparel and shoes.
Was the customer right when he said he bought the tires at that location? Yes.
Was the customer right by expecting Nordstrom, a retailer that never sold tires to accept the return? I think not.
However, instead of turning the tires away, insisting that the tires were not purchased from Nordstrom, the store associate wanted to do right by the customer who had driven more than 50 miles with the intention of returning these tires.
The store associate called a tire company to determine the value of the tires and then gave the customer the estimated amount, took the tires, and sent the customer on his way.
While the exact dollar amount paid to the customer for the tires is not known today, there can be no doubt it has been earned back thousands of times over when you consider the impact that story has had on the Nordstrom customer service reputation over the years.
So, is the customer always right? No.
However, it is always right to do right by the customer.
Brian Kennedy is an encourager who shepherds small business owners and entrepreneurs along the path of business success to preeminence by embracing time tested principles and executing the associated fundamentals daily.