‘’The customer is always right’’ is often the prerogative of a client attempting to reach a favourable price during a bargain. He uses this phrase to get to the mind of the retailer especially one that values the place of customers in any business. But is the customer always right or is the phrase just a means to an end? What exactly does the customer want and how can the retailer genuinely meet this need without being ripped off?

In the 1900s three businessmen Harry Gordon Selfridge, John Wanamaker, and Marshall Field built different successful businesses on a belief system that the ‘’Customer is always right’’. They believed that the success of their stores depended on the happiness of their customers.

Although one is not so certain who came up with the phrase, it was effective none the less. It seemed to work in the different countries were their businesses were planted; the U.K, Philadelphia in the U.S and Chicago in the U.S respectively.  They all followed the idea and ran their businesses with it.

The intention of this phrase was not to mean that the customer was in the right every time, but rather an indication that the customer was special and deserved to be treated as such. These men gave firm instructions to their employees to provide absolute satisfaction to every customer and it didn’t even matter whether or not these customers were in the right. They would rather trust in the customers and risk being taken advantage of than being perceived as mean and insensitive by the same customers.



‘’The customer is always right’’ is probably the most famous expression among others as it relates to customer loyalty. It has spread across several languages and countries and can be translated loosely to have the same semantic effect across these languages.  One of such worthy of considering in this context is ‘’le Client n’a jamais tort’’  (the customer is never wrong) the slogan that Swiss Hotelier Cesar Ritz, founder of Ritz Carlton Hotels thrived on since the 1890s.  he instructed his employees that if a diner makes a complaint about a dish or wine, such should be removed and replaced without a question. This slogan till today has contributed greatly to the success of Ritz Carlton Hotels.

While it is logical to think that the customer is not always right and can be wrong sometimes, it is also pertinent to draw a distinction between the ‘’customer is always right’ and ‘’the customer has rights’’. When this is done, great service is provided while we protect our own interests and that of our customers the best way we possibly can. When a client works into our store, they come in expecting a service, hence, they have the right to expect us to deliver the service to the extent of our competencies. They equally have a right to be who they are; awkward, fussy, indecisive, or wrong, but all of that doesn’t matter to the business, what does is the ultimate expectation of the customer and the right he has to professional and high-quality customer service.

Each business needs to create a ‘’bill of rights’’ that connotes what standards customers should expect from a brand.

A model of this bill of rights or what the customers are entitled to may be similar but not entirely limited to the following.

Customers have the rights to

  • A careful listen until their needs, wants and challenges are understood.
  • Be treated in the way that suits them
  • Communication, clarity, and honesty
  • Comprehension of what the service they will be receiving is and what it is not.
  • Have an expectation that you will value them and attempt to exceed their expectations
  • Expect that you will stick to agreed commitments or advised ahead of time honestly and openly In the event of a contingency.


With all the different variants of the phrase, it is important to know that the customer is ‘’you’’, he’s not some bot somewhere neither is he an imaginary individual, he is flesh and blood, with guts and brains.  And the best way to treat a customer is in the best way you would treat you, the only difference is, this time you have a clearly documented bill of rights.

Spread the love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.