“The customer is always right.” It’s a phrase that has been the bane of customer service employees since it was first uttered in the early 1900s. The logic behind it makes sense on paper. Keep customers happy so they keep coming back to your establishment. In practice, it may not be the best motto to live by. As we barrel towards Christmas, let’s take a look at why customer service might need a new creed.

It’s Factually Inaccurate

You never know who is going to walk through the doors of any given store. While it is good customer service to try to accommodate as many people as possible, there are going to be those who are simply looking for trouble. These people are not just a detriment to the morale of the staff, but to customers as well. Some people tend to use the phrase as carte blanche to be rude and inconsiderate just for the sake of it. It makes the environment toxic.

Misdirected Agitation

The biggest problem with “The customer is always right” is the effect it has on the customers. It emboldens shoppers to feel justified in any behavior they choose to take. This manifests itself most commonly in the form of chewing out the staff over price changes, inventory changes, and various other store policies. Intellectually, most people know that the person they are yelling at is not the one who sets store policy. Yet, they carry on yelling just the same. Why? Believe it or not, studies have shown that shoppers (particularly bargain shoppers) see retail workers as less than human. They don’t see a person with a job, they just see the job. If it is not done the way they want it, bargain shoppers are 18% more likely to seek a remedy that involves disciplinary action against the retail worker. The customer is always right after all, right?

It’s Leads to Bad Customer Service

As we’ve just discussed, retail employees are not treated very well by the public. Unfortunately, they aren’t traditionally treated very well by management either. Retail employees are largely considered expendable and replaceable. If it comes down to the customer or the employee, the smart money is on the customer, right? Wrong. It has actually been shown that when employees feel loyalty towards their place of employment, they do a better job. They feel better about their position and in turn, will go out of their way to improve the experience of their customers. Conversely, when employees don’t feel like management has their back, they care less about the position. They are willing to put up with less and are likely to do the bare minimum required for them to continue getting paid. Firing employees like this is only a Band-Aid solution. So long as the “The customer is always right” culture remains in place, it will continue to breed apathetic employees. In the long run, it is more profitable to lose a few problem customers to keep a loyal staff than it is to keep problem customers and have a revolving door of uninspired employees.