The Customer is Always Right?

Please click to see an overview by Senior Executive Leadership Coach Tracey Nelson

“The customer is always right” is a phrase pioneered by Harry Gordon Selfridge, John Wanamaker and Marshall Field, highly successful retailers who understood that the success of their stores depended on the happiness of their customers.

We don’t buy it.

Wait? What? … Keep your hats on and please allow me to explain!

The concept of treating the customer as “always right” implies a passive compliance with whatever the heck that customer wants or says; in other words, to placate him/her. Having worked in retail, I would agree that this is a helpful mindset for that business. 

But from an executive leadership coach’s perspective, this mindset is wholly inadequate. Our customers are our clients and our purpose is to serve those clients, not to placate them.  Of course, we always seek to do what’s best for the client, whether or not it is the best choice for our own business. But that’s just a baseline. 

Momentum Coaches establish a partnership with each individual client, working together with them to dig deep, enhance their effectiveness and leadership skills, and attain their goals. In all honesty, this can create some uncomfortable conversations in which clients might not be described as “happy”. Taking a service mindset, as opposed to a placation mindset, allows the partnership to move past any temporary discomfort and continue on the path to the client’s objectives.

Jon Picoult, founder of Watermark noted, “If you’re aspiring to satisfy your customers, then you’re aspiring to mediocrity”.

As we are focused on finding breakthrough solutions and laying the groundwork for significant performance improvement, just keeping the customer happy clearly won’t do.

I always look forward to hearing your comments – please email me with your thoughts.


FOW #7: ALWAYS SERVE THE CUSTOMER Remember our founding principle, “we work in partnership” always! In all situations do what’s best for the customer, even if it’s to our own detriment.

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