Is The Customer Always Right?


As a Store Manager working in retail in my early 20s, returns were the bane of my existence. It made me crazy when someone would buy a pair of shoes, wear them and then bring them back and want to return them for some made up reason. It negatively impacted my sales and it went against my values of only accepting returns that were “unworn”.

Repeatedly, I would engage in debates with the customer, point out the scratches, the dirt on the soles of the shoes and try and force them to keep the merchandise.

One day my District Manager was at the store and he taught me a powerful lesson.

He said “Lisa, when it comes to how you sell and serve our customers, treat the business like it is your own. When it comes to accepting returns, regardless of the reason, just let the customer return the merchandise and have a great experience.”

He went on to explain to me the lesson around how one upset customer can tell so many other customers (this was back in 1989) and the bigger impact it has on a business when you don’t treat them well when things go wrong.

That lesson has stayed with me for the most part in my career and business and from time to time – I get tested.

Can you relate?

You know what I mean…You get that feeling in your belly that makes you want to defend or resist a request for a refund. Or you rationalize that it was “their fault” that the program or product didn’t work and think you should have a stronger policy outlining every exception known to man as to why they can’t have their money back because that will stop the next one!

Or, maybe you are in a service business and you get scope creep where the customer expects you to do more than what they paid for and you struggle to say no, or ask for more money and you get resentful because of the way you perceive them to be treating you?

The truth is, this type of thing is usually the exception, not the norm. It is a small percentage of customers who are dissatisfied, or who are challenging to work with and a very very small percentage that are completely off the cuff trying to take advantage of you. Right?

Here is what I know: You have to stop taking it personally. 

When you have the right process in place, it is easy to communicate your return policy or to explain the process for requesting additional support outside of a program.

When it comes to customer service, have a process. Don’t take it personally and don’t react personally  <- Tweet This!

When you react personally you are engaging in something that is rarely about you, and you are expending valuable energy on these exception situations instead of putting that energy to use serving your good customers.

All of that said, is the customer ALWAYS right? Not necessarily. This week’s Shop Talk goes into some of the experiences that I have had when it comes to unhappy customers, or ones who expect too much.

Check out the video below and then tell me in the comments, how do you deal with unhappy customers? Do you have a process?


3 thoughts on “Is The Customer Always Right?”

  1. excellent article and so true Lisa!! I have been fortunate that I haven’t had clients return any supplements or ideal protein foods they’ve bought from me. I always allow them to return a package of food if they don’t like it and exchange it for something else. Keep the customer happy so they will always talk positive about you and your business!

  2. Great article, Lisa!
    I’ve never had anyone ask for their money back, but I do regularly have a problem with clients asking for MORE… I run a swim lesson company and students that sign up for lessons often miss 1 or rarely 2 classes in a session and although i have a “no makeup” policy (because truly that time is reserved for the student and i pay my instructors either way..) parents will often ask for a make up class.
    When clients ask for “more” how do you decide if you want to give them more or put your foot down and say I’m sorry I can’t offer more, this is what you paid for..?
    It certainly is a tough situation!

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Lisa Larter Bio Image of Lisa x400

Lisa Larter

Founder and CEO of the Lisa Larter Group, master strategist, author, speaker, podcast host, social media expert, consultant, and business coach. Lisa inspires entrepreneurs and business owners to see the possibilities for their organizations when it comes to strategy. She uncomplicates modern marketing and creates (and implements) strategies for businesses that are guaranteed to increase visibility, inbound leads, and revenue.

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