In the world of service culture, the customer is always right. Wait a minute. That’s wrong!

By: Ron Kaufman

In the world of uplifting service culture, we put the needs of our customers as our highest priority. Entire systems and ways of interacting, are based upon “the care and feeding” of our most valuable resource…the customers and colleagues we serve.

These precious people – be they customers, clients, patients, guests, employees, vendors, or partners –  are the people on whom our businesses rely. They are, in the end, the profitability of our business.

So what should you do when a customer surfaces who is mean-spirited, abusive, or accusatory? What happens when you clearly know that a customer is not being honest?

In one well documented story, Southwest Airlines sets a great example. The Southwest airlines customer service department repeatedly received letters from an upset passenger. The woman had complaints about the airline’s service every time she flew. She didn’t like the snacks, she didn’t like the seating policies, she didn’t care for the casual nature of the staff.  Finally, one of her complaints was forwarded to Herb Kelleher,  CEO and founder of Southwest Airlines.

Herb’s reply to this perpetually unhappy customer? ‘Dear Mrs. Crabapple, We will miss you. Love, Herb.’ Mr. Kelleher has gone on record to say that he will not allow customers to abuse his staff. He asks such a customers to fly another airline.

One goal of “Uplifting Service Culture” is to empower your front-line staff. We want employees to have pride in the work they do, and the results that they achieve.

By openly promoting and accepting “the customer is always right” attitude, you may be putting a  customer’s untruthful story above the training, commitment and expertise of your staff.  You may thereby – inadvertently – disempower your well trained staff, and give an abusive customer the upper hand.

When all is said and done, customers may not always be right, but they ARE always the customers. You must decide which customers you want to keep, and which customers are better lost, released or even guided to your friendly competition.

Letting abusive customers go tells your staff know that you support them, you believe in them, and you will always have their back. This allows you and your team to focus on, and nurture, the clients you want to keep – the ones that really matter.

This post was originally published on the Uplifting Service blog.