"The Customer is Always Right: Not in this Lifetime"

customer is always right“The customer is always right.” Now there’s a phrase we don’t hear much anymore, simply because it doesn’t mean much anymore. We grew up in an age when “the customer is always right” was the catchphrase of firms and businesses everywhere, from the local mom and pop mini market around the corner to the major department stores like Sears, J.C Penny’s and May Co. Those were the days when customer service was still an integral part of the business model. Customer satisfaction was paramount. Customers mattered. Happy customers meant increased revenue, positive word of mouth, and customer loyalty. That was long before the age of the internet and the ability to reach customers globally. Back then it was ads in the local newspaper and word of mouth. There was no better way to advertise than keeping customers happy.

Times have sure changed. Today customer service has been relegated to the back burner. Now it’s all about moving the product. The more units they move the more money they make. Once the sale is made and the product is in our hands things change. Warranty and follow up service is often handled by customer service reps who are often rude, appear bored or angry and quite frankly, could care less about resolving our problems or possibly losing our business. Where once we sang the praises of high quality customer service we now find ourselves complaining more and more about the poor treatment we’re receiving.  The prevailing attitude seems to be “if we don’t buy their product someone else will.”

Consider the case of the Eagles fan who bought a ticket for the recent Eagles concert at the newly renovated Forum. It was to be his first time seeing them so he spent about an hour on the Ticketmaster website looking for just the right seat. He finally selected a seat that would afford him a straight on view and good sound. He paid over $200 for it and was looking forward to a good time.

On the night of the concert he arrived at the gate, handed over his printed ticket to be scanned and was surprised when a red X appeared on the screen. He was directed to business office where he was told that his seat was not available because of camera placement for the show. He was given a replacement ticket and went on his way. His new seat was horrible. It was on the side and slightly behind the stage. He wouldn’t be able to see the band’s faces and had no view of the giant monitors on either side of the stage. He went back to the office to ask for a different seat but was told that the only other seats were near the back of the nose bleed section. He chose to keep the first ticket they’d given him.

Before returning to his seat he went down to see where his original seat was. Once there he discovered that his seat didn’t even exist! He had purchased seat 107 of row 1, section 101, but row one had only six seats. There was no seat 107 or cameras blocking it. He returned to the replacement seat and although it was not what he had paid for, still enjoyed the show. The following day he contacted the owners of the Forum and explained the situation and requested a partial refund. He was told by the service rep that that wasn’t possible because both seat were comparable (although one didn’t exist?)  and he had stayed and seen the concert. He’d paid to see the Eagles and seen the Eagles, end of discussion.  Is this anyway to treat a paying customer with a legitimate complaint? Apparently so. It appears that even when they’re wrong, the company is right!

It wasn’t until after a reporter contacted a Forum spokesman and explained what had happened that the Eagles fans situation was resolved in an acceptable manner. After looking into it the spokesman said that the only possible explanation for the error was a glitch in the new seating/ ticketing system which was being used for the very first time. He also said that the Forum staff on duty the night of the concert and the owners of the Forum could have and should have handled the situation better. A few days later the Eagles fan received an apology from the Forum and a pair of tickets to see Paul Simon and Sting later this month, including parking. Situation resolved. Kudos to the Forum spokesman. It’s pretty obvious he knows the importance of customer satisfaction.

There’s no big secret to maintaining a loyal fan base or attracting new customers, great customer service will do it every time. Bad customer service can destroy a businesses reputation and cost them big  time, but great customer service can keep customers coming back again and again. Of course we all know that customers aren’t always right, but good customer service reps will always find a way to make them feel like they are.

Just Saying…


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