Wednesday Words

To Go Where Your VisionPoints, a few inspiration points for you and your business.

Right or wrong, the customer is always right.
—Marshall Field

At the risk of sounding like I’m ranting this week…

Aw, heck. Maybe I am. I’ll risk it.   🙂

Another true tale of dining out, this one from a small chain, a fast-food restaurant where The Kid and I stopped for a quick bite the other night. We waited in line, ordered our food, then stepped aside to let others order while we waited.

The folks behind us got their order, but apparently ours was still cooking.

The young women at the counter stood, turned out to face anyone who might come up to order as they’d been trained at this restaurant, looking up and around with glazed eyes every few moments, but mainly passed drawings back and forth as if they were passing notes in fourth grade.

I don’t think that’s in the training manual, but I was a teenager once, so I tried to be indulgent. For three, four, five minutes. A couple of times I politely, half-jokingly, wondered aloud what could be taking the kitchen so long to get our very simple order finished.

Finally someone else came to the counter and asked to help the next person in line, when there was still only us, waiting. Since the young artistes didn’t seem to have any interest, I said yes, you could help me by telling me how much longer until my order arrives.

At which point the young ladies who’d been staring right through us—the one who took our order and her friend—snapped to life.

And became INDIGNANT.

“Are you still waiting?” said our order taker in surprise.

“Yes, that’s why I’m standing here.”

“We didn’t see you.”

“We’ve been the only people here in front of you for five minutes. You didn’t see us?”

“I was taking orders,” she sneered.

No point in arguing. I resumed talking to the newly arrived woman. “When will it be ready?” And it was magically in front of me before the words came out of my mouth, because though I didn’t know it, the food had been sitting there waiting for our cashier to pick it up all along.

“I thought you were already gone,” our cashier harshed at my back as we left, now late for an appointment. “The screen was red.”

I have no idea what that parting shot meant, and naturally the customer couldn’t care less what it means. If I hadn’t been in a hurry I would have gotten the woman’s name (because this fast food place isn’t one of the big three, and they’re known for service beyond anyone else’s). I know the manager would want to hear about this “service,” but I couldn’t spare the time.

So Marshall Field’s wonderful old statement came back to me as I was about to put this post together for you. Of course, it’s easy to say “Don’t Make Your Customers Wait Long” and “Don’t Hire People Who Doodle and Pass Notes Instead of Working” and “NEVER Let Anyone on Your Staff Sass-Back to the Customer (Never!!).”

But let’s say she wasn’t just making a scene to impress the person who did finally help us. Let’s say she truly believed The Kid and I were somehow in the wrong.

It’ll happen to you one day. One day, you’ll think your customer’s completely wrong, because he’s misunderstood something or he’s an idiot or because he’s a total lying dork.

But he or she still gets to be treated as if they are right.

Why? Two reasons.

1. Because maybe you’re seeing it wrong, and maybe the idiot is really you. If you’re busy running a successful business, then this is going to be the case more often than any of us want to admit, so give the customer the benefit of the doubt.

2. Because it is more important that you have an absolute policy of treating all customers as King than it is for you to sit in judgment on one dork in one transaction on one day of his or her lifetime of business with you (and lifetime of word-of-mouth). Are you running a business or guarding the Pearly Gates?

The customer is always (treated as if he’s) right. Don’t tell your customers they’re wrong. If they are, they know or they don’t care, and if they’re not…

… they’re gonna write a blog post about you.


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson