The Customer Is Always Wrong

I think the Customer is wrong many more times than she’s right..

Customers don’t fill out (online) forms like they should, they don’t read the terms and conditions when they buy, they are wrong about what they thought they read (somewhere), about how to use your product and how to maintain it..

And even more so the Customer leaves value on the table, because features and/or options are not recognized, not used, not understood.. They are wrong because afraid to ask and look stupid, and they’re not capable of searching your website..

The last mistake Customers make is that they don’t vote with their feet.. Because the company that is supposed to serve them, does not seem to care enough about their Customers being wrong.. Not enough to help them be right..

Maybe the best way to serve your Customers is to acknowledge they’re wrong, and make it your mission to help them get it right..

What do you think?

I wrote this (in slightly different wording) as a comment to Kate Nasser‘s post: and thought it a good idea to share it with you here too..

29 thoughts on “The Customer Is Always Wrong

  1. Wim, Consumer actions can always be enhanced as they are just one element of consumption practices…. The idea is to take a more entrepreneurial way of seeing consumers instead of keeping with the rethorical assumption they are kings and always right…. the idea is to try to balance relationships at consumption practices something that cannot be done by adopting either parties’ centricities


  2. Pingback: HTTMEDIA CREATIVE » Trải nghiệm khách hàng – Khách hàng vẫn chưa nhận được thứ họ cần

  3. Wim,

    Please note the following article that reinforces your perspective:

    How to Prevent Your Customers From Failing:

    “Customers do not merely purchase services; they are also often actively involved in their design and delivery. In this respect they are co-producers, which means that they not only have an impact on the quality of their own experiences but also influence the satisfaction of other customers, and they can help or hinder the productivity of front-line employees and the company. Customers also frequently fail in their co-production role. Research indicates that about one-third of all service problems are caused by the customer.”




  4. I have seen the customer be ‘wrong’ in so many ways like those you mention and more. This is the value of looking at customer needs from a jobs-to-be-done perspective. It takes the focus off the product or service as the sole requirement for value realization. In tandem with the product or service, the jobs-to-be-done perspective recognizes that the customer has a role to play in getting a job done. If the product AND customer do their role well…success. If not…failure. This perspective is acknowledged for service experiences, but it is equally relevant to product situations. In either case, a company must consider if it is clear to the customer what they must do, if the customer is motivated to fulfill their role, and if the customer has the necessarly skills and resources to do what is expected. As you suggest, it is the company’s job to make sure the customer does have these things so that the customer will be wrong no more. And, if the customer is not clear, not willing, or not able, then it is the company’s job to redesign their product or service to make sure that it doesn’t matter.


    • Hear Hear!

      Little to add but to thank you for reading & your comment. Customer Jobs and Outcomes and Service Dominant Logic are the two ‘lenses’ that have shaped my thinking and perspective significantly over the past three to four years. Thank you for acknowledging that ;)

      I hope to see you back here soon.



  5. Pingback: Top 25 CRM Influencers You Should Be Following | Zoho Blogs

  6. Pingback: Lists, lists, lists and Thank You! « Wim Rampen's Blog

  7. My two customer centric cents:

    The customer is not wrong. Just that your ‘price’ is rather high

    “don’t fill out (online) forms like they should” because what they want is what you are offering, but you didn’t tell them they had to pay an additional price ‘form filling’

    “they don’t read the terms and conditions when they buy” they really like your offering, but again an additional price of “reading” and the risks if they don’t.

    “they are wrong about what they thought they read (somewhere)” they had a need and they thought you fulfilled it, not realising YOU didn’t get THEM

    “about how to use your product and how to maintain it” they thought they knew when they bought, but they didn’t realise the emotional labour costs they had to expend

    “And even more so the Customer leaves value on the table, because features and/or options are not recognized, not used, not understood.. ” they had the best intentions but your costs are high….and they didn’t leave value on the table. they were supposed to co-create it with you, but they couldn’t… it really does take 2 hands to clap…and I suppose you were more concerned with clapping hands with those that ‘get’ you, and willing to do everything you ask of them

    “They are wrong because afraid to ask and look stupid, and they’re not capable of searching your website..” when they paid the price for the offering, they didn’t realise it had so many conditions attached….and that they had to fit you, rather than the other way round….

    So….. if we looked at an excellent product/service as FIT… perhaps the customer is not wrong after all….



  8. I’m not sure if it’s a question of being right or wrong. I believe businesses typically listen to customer with a context of either “to sell” or “to obtain answers.” If we listen in the context of obtaining “actionable insight” then everyone wins.


    • Thx Ray,

      I certainly agree when you say we need to listen in the context of obtaining actionable insight.. Something that could well be derived from a “customer is always wrong” mindset.

      Tx for the read & comment.



  9. I couldn’t agree more. It’s astonishing how hard people will fight in order to prove themselves to be “right!” When it comes to providing service the trick is to steer the customer toward a solution that solves their problem and very often, even more importantly, lets them be correct in their assessment. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed foolish service providers trying to argue their case with a customer in order to prove what they did was justified or made sense. It’s a battle that digs them deeper into the hole they’re already in, can never be won and easily be avoided by looking at the situation from the other side.


  10. You’re spot on and well done with humor. I’ve more often heard “our customers are dumb” rather than “help us simplify our process so it makes more sense to our customers” and by simplicity, I mean less customer effort. Too often, the process design is done from the inside out rather than outside in. And it never hurts to walk in your customer’s shoes and actually test the process that way.


    • Hi Bill,

      Exactly! Understand the Customer’s journey and the pain you cause him to get his job done. And then go fix.. Easier said than done though..

      Thx for your kind feedback.



  11. Wim,

    I particularly enjoyed this post and loved the last line: Maybe the best way to serve your Customers is to acknowledge they’re wrong, and make it your mission to help them get it right. I get tired of truism soundbites that pretend to be wisdom. Our job is to serve. Sometimes that takes insight into the customer beyond just being nice. Sometimes we have to tell them they’re wrong for their own good.
    Of course, we can do it gracefully.


  12. Well done.

    It can be a real challenge to be a customer service employee when the customer is wrong, but both the customer and your boss operate under the assumption that the customer is always right. Your advice, to help the customer get it right, is a very nice solution.


  13. Pingback: This Week: Social Business Doesn’t Mean What You Think it Does « Electronic Document Management Software « Electronic Document Management Software

  14. You got my attention! The double negatives point to our own shortcomings in our communications, as well as how consumers are wrong (including each of us). We are too busy, too distracted, to overworked, too whatever to be right. I like the idea of the business I am going to do business with to know that I am going to go about things the wrong way-and they are going to help me get it right. It puts me to mind of the call I made to HSBC this morning re: a credit card issue. I was impatient, and only half listening to the prompts. Of course, I got frustrated when I couldn’t speak to a person. I hung up and called back, and discovered that on the phone tree, only after I let the auto attendant state, “Press X to go back to the previous menu,” did I have the option to speak to a representative. HSBC should anticipate that me, and other customers, do want to speak to a representative, and help us along in that facet. As a consumer, I am taking my “feet” and going to give my business to another bank…


  15. Pingback: Cms World » This Week: Social Business Doesn’t Mean What You Think it Does

  16. Pingback: This Week: Social Business Doesn’t Mean What You Think it Does | CMS News Today

  17. Pingback: SNS Online | Blog | This Week: Social Business Doesn't Mean What You Think it Does

  18. Pingback: This Week: Social Business Doesn't Mean What You Think it Does

  19. This post is right on the money. The best companies will be aware of and anticipate customer issues/mistakes and be prepared to handle them properly.

    Companies are well aware of the fact that not everybody reads the terms & conditions, so it makes sense that they should be prepared to handle any issues that arise from this well known fact.

    Sadly many companies are unaware of how to take such steps to prepare for the customer being wrong. Companies that are able to do so set themselves apart from their competition and are able to provide more value and a better experience to their customers.

    This sort of pro-activity is a common trait amongst what I like to call 3D organizations. Customer 3D is a term I use to describe companies that have instilled good customer centric strategies, such as being prepared to handle customer mistakes. I explain Customer 3D further on my website:


  20. I agree. It’s a choice as to whether they’re right or wrong.

    From a post I wrote last year:

    It’s Up to You

    Nobody is perfect, so the literal translation is clearly wrong, but what the best service organizations figure out is that you can choose to make the customer right.

    If a customer has an unreasonable expectation, you can choose to live it up to it.
    If a customer mistakenly blames you for something, you can choose to accept it.
    If a customer’s perception of your value is way off, you can choose to alter it.

    You always have a choice when it comes to customer interaction. It’s up to you to make the customer right.

    Full post here:


  21. What do I think? I think your post had a great headline that caught my attention. I like your tongue in cheek examples. But most of all, I think you nailed it in your last line – customer-oriented folks help their customers get it right.


  22. Wim,

    Too funny. I also commented on that post though my comment is still “awaiting moderation”.

    Here is my comment (as we wait):


    You will not find a bigger customer advocate than me. In short, I agree with the spirit of the post, but to make it gospel is dangerous.

    If we truly believe in customer “relationships”, then the concept that the customer is always right is unfortunately flawed, because very few people are ALWAYS right. Customers can be irrational, selfish, irresponsible, and even unprofitable.

    As in any relationship, sometimes there is mis-alignment of expectations and lack of a compelling value proposition for both sides. This value exchange changes and evolves over time. The duty of an organization is to continually listen, show empathy, gain a deeper understanding of needs, and provide a product or service offering that provides significant value for their customers, or better yet, provide a platform for customers to co-create their own products and services, and support each other in their mutual journeys and jobs to be done.

    To fail to recognize that some customers are simply unprofitable is to deny the truth. In some cases, it may make sense for the organization, in their best interest and in duty to their shareholders to first attempt to re-establish relational guidelines in order to achieve a better balance for both parties, or in some cases, even “fire customers”.

    Understand that the context I am speaking of is one of an endless and tireless pursuit to create value, to delight customers, and to create a community of engaged, happy, and enthusiastic customers. The reality is that each of our organizations won’t be a fit for some customers.

    In service to those who are engaged, it makes sense to re-allocate human capital away from those who are unprofitable for the organization towards better servicing those who are.

    Before anyone screams about customers are about more than profits for the organization, I agree. The challenge is that profits today are only measured in monetary currency. Which ignores things like referral value, or recommendation value. See

    Umair Haque suggests a new triple bottom line measurement for corporations, which would in turn require a more meaningful measurement of customers and our relationships with them.

    In short, I agree with the spirit of the post and the accompanying mindset to listen, serve, and respect customers. However, not all relationships are equal nor mutually beneficial.


Comments are closed.