CX Myth #1: The Customer Is Always Right

CX Myths: Debunking Misleading Beliefs About Customer Experience

Many common beliefs about customer experience are misguided, based on oversimplifications or a lack of consideration for real-world constraints. In this series of posts, we debunk these myths.

CX Myth #1: The Customer Is Always Right

What’s Wrong: Like all human beings, customers aren’t always right. They sometimes complain when the company did nothing wrong, request things that the company can not or should not provide, and periodically just make mistakes.

What’s Right: Customers are not always right, but they always deserve the benefit of the doubt, and to be treated with respect even when they are wrong.

What You Should Do:

  • Be respectful. Just like with customers, always treat employees with respect, even when they’re wrong.
  • Train for conflict. Teach employees how to deal with upset customers. This includes learning not to get defensive, showing empathy, and using positive language to dampen customers’ negative emotions.
  • Back away. Allow employees to disengage with customers when they are being disorderly.
  • Learn from mistakes. Review situations when customers are wrong to identify (and improve) areas where your organization may be purposely or inadvertently misleading customers.
  • Say goodbye sometimes. Don’t worry about losing customers who can’t—or won’t—be happy with how you run your organization.

The bottom line: Customers aren’t always right.

Written by 

I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about leading-edge XM topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

6 thoughts on “CX Myth #1: The Customer Is Always Right”

  1. I did some research to find the origins of “the customer is always right” and discovered that the quote has probably been twisted from the original. There’s no consensus on who first said it, but most accounts trace back to an original sentiment that’s similar to what you describe–customers are sometimes wrong, but it’s our job to help them become right.

    Here’s a link to what I found about who first said that phrase:

  2. Thanks for the post. I think the larger question is which is customer is “right” and why should we be listening to them. The not so little truth that few want to talk about is center in the extended expression that ” All Customers are created equally…some are just a little more equal than others.”

  3. As CX professionals, if we say “the customer is always right”, we take away from them the fact that they are human beings and it is normal to make errors.

  4. Praiseworthy blog! We at Dear Customers Australia strongly agree that the customer isn’t always right. The quote “The customer is always right” can be seen as a way explaining the importance of customer service. However, this shouldn’t be taken literally, at the end of the day, we’re all only human.

    In Australia there has been an increase in abuse from customers towards retail and hospitality workers. Employees want to provide excellent customer service and customers want their needs and expectations met. We believe it is important that both employees and customers are respectful and considerate towards one another. Having this mutual respect will allow for better interactions for both parties.

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