Who Says the Customer is Always Right?

Photo Credit: Matthew Yohe, adaptation by Joe Goedereis via CC License

Photo Credit: Matthew Yohe, adaptation by Joe Goedereis via CC License

It’s funny where insights about customer service come from. I recently heard an interview on the Robcastwhere Rob Bell interviewed Mark “Flanny” Flanagan, the owner of Largo, a music and comedy club in Los Angeles. Largo is a small venue, seating about 270 people, but consistently features some very well known musicians and comedians.

During the interview, Flanny shared some of the history of Largo and what makes his venue special. Here are a few things that really stuck out to me.

Flanny only works with and features artists that he likes and works well with.

Think of this in terms of product. Largo’s product is the artists who share their talent with the audience or customers. It’s ok to be selective as to the artists you feature or the products you sell.

Flanny’s product is unique

Flanny works very hard to make Largo a place where artists can try out new material before they take it out on the road— or choose not to take it out on the road. This exclusivity of their content sets Largo apart from many other venues.

The customer isn’t always right

Flanny recounted the time when he and his business partner split up and it was over this philosophy. Because Flanny spends so much time cultivating relationships with the artists and making Largo a safe place for them to try their new material, he has a strict policy that customers cannot take any pictures or videos at the events.

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Photo Credit: Nicole Abalde via CC License

He told stories about how he would go to customers who violated this policy, give them their money back, and ask them to leave. Largo clearly wasn’t the venue for them. Granted, I think most customers would be happy with that person filming the entire show on their iPad being asked to leave.

It’s fascinating to learn of businesses where the customer isn’t always right. In this case, Flanny has set a clear standard for the way he runs his business and has been extremely successful doing so. On the flipside, however, this means that certain artists and customers are not welcome at Largo.

In a recent conversation, I was afforded a new lens through which to view customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction allows us to see how our product or service aligns with customer expectations. Dissatisfied customers often present an opportunity to evaluate whether or not to align with the customer’s needs and wants.
callcentermemesAs I think about the old adage “The customer is always right,” I’m realizing that it’s ok to choose which customers to align with and which ones to send elsewhere. Ultimately, if your product or service aligns with enough customers, your business will be successful.

Now, for the customer service professionals out there, be very, very careful about determining whether a customer is right or not and err on the side of the customer being right. That determination should ultimately come from the person that signs the paychecks.

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Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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