When Did the Customer…Cease to be Always Right?

Jonathon and I were discussing customer service this afternoon and he mentioned the customer service dedication of the founder of Wal-Mart, Sam Walton, and his unfailing vision of the customer being always right.

Many years ago, when Sam was still alive, I recall someone that I was acquainted with, saying that he took an old wrench that he found by the side of the road into Wal-Mart and said that he had purchased it there and that they subsequently gave him a new wrench in its place.

Of course, that is a stellar example of the customer being wrong…but it illustrates the  ‘no questions asked’ policy of Sam Walton when it came to customer service.

Today, Wal-Mart is the largest, brick and mortar, retailer in the world.

Recently I have had a conundrum with my lawn mowing service.  When I began with the service, in 2016, I specified that I needed for my small fenced in area, that is specifically for the three dog night, to be pushed mowed.  When the owner of the company, who personally mowed my yard the first time that his company performed the service…I again mentioned to him that I could see that he did not have a push mower on his trailer.  He said that he had forgotten it and that he would cut the fenced in area with a week eater, just that time, and henceforth bring a push mower thereafter.

We are in the third year of the Lawn Mowing Service…and they have never pushed mowed the fenced in area…until last month…one time.  My wife sent them a note on our bill and remarked how much better the enclosed area looked being push mowed.  After all of that they came yesterday and proceeded to cut the small area with a weed eater.

When I protested the crew member that I spoke with assured me that he would return, yesterday, with his push mower and complete the job.

He did not return.

As the manager of a custodial service organization for over 25 years….I dealt with numerous customer complaints and, often, poor work that we had performed.  Rather than give an excuse or tell the customer that I would remind the custodial technicians to do a good job the next time…I had the job done over and to the customer’s specifications.  Often I did the job over myself in my suit and tie.

Prior to my assuming the Superintendent’s duties our department had the policy that if we accidentally broke a university item that we would replace it.  I extended that policy to if we accidentally broke either a university item or a personal item…we would replace it.

In the event that we had some difficulty determining exactly what the customer concern was regarding our custodial work…we would meet with them, personally, for them to show us our failure.

I and many of my friends, when we were all much younger, ate breakfast at a restaurant called Maid Rite in Duquoin, Illinois.  None of us had much money and the jovial owner, Frank, would often come round to our table and give us extra bacon or sausage or pancakes or biscuits and gravy…at no charge.

Now, the Maid Rite…was a dive…but it was full of love and good food and customer service…and it was always full of people.

Often businesses today wonder why that they can not seem to get ahead or to succeed?

Thinking outside the box and making the customer first…would be a good place to start.

I am old enough to recall the Hertz Rental Car commercial where a well dressed man is floating down from the sky and being placed behind the wheel of a Hertz Rental Car…while the announcer intoned that, ‘Hertz puts you in the driver’s seat.’

McDonalds Hamburgers had a tagline, for many years, that said….’We do it all of you at McDonalds.’

At our local Famous and Barr Department store the men and women working there all addressed me by name…and I felt like that I owned the place!


3 responses

  1. These days, customer is not always right. I am invisible sometimes to retail staff. I guess it is due to inability to find good staff, replaced hires with just about anyone. We do have Giodarno and Robinsons that still pride selves with good service. But a rarity these days. I know exactly how you feel. But with online shopping retail staff are lessening too.

    1. Yes, it is disheartening and appears to be a combination of a lack of commitment by the employee and poor training by the manager. 🧐

      1. I agree. Gone are the old days.

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