The Customer is Not Always Right

Conventional wisdom holds that the customer is always right. As is often the case, conventional wisdom is wrong. Unfortunately, far too many contractors buy into this faulty view, and in the process, they do themselves and their customers a great disservice. Equally unfortunate, many customers also embrace this adage, with the same destructive results.

Consider what “the customer is always right” really means: regardless of the facts, the customer’s position should be accepted by both parties. The focus is not on the truth, but blind acceptance of the customer’s claims. But what if the customer is actually wrong?

As an example, let us say that the customer tells you that he will supply the paint for his exterior painting project. When you arrive to start the project, you discover that the customer has purchased interior paint. The customer insists that you use the paint, despite any arguments you present. “Paint is paint,” the customer declares. (I’ve actually had this occur.)

If you accept the adage that the customer is always right, you will go ahead and use the paint. Rather than continue a pointless debate, you conclude that you will avoid the problem by giving in. But what happens when the paint job fails prematurely? Who will get the blame? Did you really avoid a problem, or just delay it?

In this example, the customer gets a poor job. Your reputation is going to take a hit because you agreed that the customer is always right, even when he isn’t. You may find yourself with a major headache down the road, all because you believed that the customer is always right.

Nobody is infallible, and this doesn’t change simply because someone has hired your company to paint their house. When a customer is wrong, we must say so. Of course, we should be tactful in dong so.

Standing up to a customer who is wrong is not always easy. But it is much easier than dealing with a problem that could have been avoided if we had simply had the courage to defend the truth.

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