The Customer Is NOT Always Right

The customer is sometimes dead wrong. Let me explain.

The idea that “the customer is always right” is good and useful, within its proper context. When you’re dealing with a good customer, one who brings profit to your business, who doesn’t cost you time, money, and energy, it’s good to take an accommodating attitude. If you have a profitable customer, and you want to have them remain a customer, it’s often prudent to give them concessions on requests or complaints.

But as you know, not every customer is profitable.

Some customers have unreasonable expectations of you and your company. Some customers will never be happy or satisfied, until they win some sort of “superiority position” in your relationship that allows them to take advantage of you.

Now you may feel that this idea-the idea that some customers are not worth keeping-is not very kind. You may feel that it is a violation of the Golden rule, for instance. But think of it this way…

If you permit a customer to actually cost you money in order to do business with them-in other words, if for every hundred dollars the customer spends with you, you must spend $200 to keep them happy-how long will you be in business?

What if all your customers were like that?

The answer is, you wouldn’t be in business very long. You would quickly be bankrupt, once your capital had run out.

So clearly some customers are not right.

I’m not suggesting you take a hard-nosed, unsympathetic, unkind approach to business. If you are providing valuable goods and services to the marketplace, the kindest thing you can do is to remain in business. The only way you can do that is to continue to generate profits. And to continue generating the most amount of profits possible, so that you may render the most service to the marketplace possible, you must be able to identify customers that do not belong in a business relationship with you.

Perhaps they do belong in a business relationship with someone else, or they need to learn how to do business properly.

It may or may not be your task to teach some of your customers how to do business properly. I leave that to you to decide.

My goal here is to simply raise your awareness that the customer is not always right. However, the right customer is always good for your business.

Something to think about: how can you attract, do business with, and stay in  relationship with more of the “right customers”?

Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at

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  • Totally correct that the customer is not always right. I’d like to add one caveat to it, however.

    The customer that you think is wrong may not be wrong. The fact that you don’t like what a customer has to say or is asking for shouldn’t be used as the lone parameter when determining whether or not his position is valid.

    Try to think about it objectively. On our buy side, we’ve all changed our behaviors a bit over the last few years. Your sell side is someone else’s buy side.

    Business is always about supply and demand. One of the major components of demand is perceived value. When shoppers are being more prudent in their purchases, perceived value tends to shift downward. When perceived value shifts downward, the vendor must be proactive in adding value in one form another.

  • Absolutely right, Ray!

    We had a patient one time with OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) who used to call (I’m not exaggerating) anywhere from 5 to 12 times a week canceling and rescheduling appointments, because she was obsessing about her life and her schedule and her mother, etc.

    She was costing me money, just because every minute my office manager Bette was on the phone with her, Bette couldn’t get any of her other work done! Plus she was driving everyone crazy.

    I had to let her go as a patient.

    Of course, as soon as I told her that I really didn’t think I was helping her (I really didn’t), she wanted to come back even more.

    I told her that we could no longer afford to offer her the financial hardship discount we had been giving her (another mistake in the first place), and she proceeded to have a temper tantrum at the front desk, disturbing everyone in the reception area.

    But you know what? She never came back.

    And we were all relieved and happy.


  • Frank Rumbauskas

    Unfortunately the severe entitlement mentality of consumers keeps getting worse. I’m shocked at how many customer service tickets and calls include threats of legal action and FTC complaints and demands for free stuff even though we’ve done nothing wrong and it’s the first time they’re contacting us! Consumers complain about customer satisfaction but they themselves continue to make it more difficult for businesses to satisfy them.

    • Carley

      Frank you are absolutely right. i work in fast food. We have an online ordering system along with a phone ordering system. Customer’s use the online to make their own orders themselves. I got two customers in one day saying, “this is not what I ordered” when they were the ones that ordered online! How is it my fault that they can’t use the computer. One day I finally said, “well you ordered with the online system so call them and maybe they will replace your order”, and I charged her for her order full price. them she came back later in the week and did the same exact thing! Demanding a new order! I could not believe it. Why is it that if you order a hamburger, and don’t say that you didn’t want onions on it, that you can send it back costing the business money for your own mistake?

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  • Dan Tredo

    I think determining if its time to ‘separate’ yourself from a customer really demands discernment. Sometimes complaints can be the best advice about where your business needs to improve. Other times complaints require patience and sacrifice in order to preserve a good relationship with a long-standing customer. But then there are times when a repeated spirit of complaint from a customer is just wasting your time and resources. Discernment will counsel your way. If it is really the latter, it could be time to ‘separate’ yourself from that customer as gracefully and professionally as possible and move on. Just another day in the life of a faithul and ‘discerning’ entrepreneur!