Platitudes Are Not Always Right

This week’s Discover Challenge from the Daily Post is to “write a post that goes against the conventional wisdom — reinterpret something for us.” I’ll take this opportunity to take shots at a particularly annoying platitude.

The assertion that the customer is always right has about as much value as an apple a day keeps the doctor away: you may feel good about yourself when making either statement (I’m providing excellent customer service! I’m taking care of my health!), but using either slogan as a guiding principle is ludicrously short-sighted. I’ve got nothing against apples; there’s even a couple trees growing in my back yard (the blossoms in spring are a particular joy). They’re nutritious and certainly more beneficial than many other things we routinely ingest, but if galas and fujis and golden delicious are a substitute for a balanced diet, exercise, and routine medical exams, you’re in for some serious problems.

Now, about those customers. Let’s cut out the nonsense first: yes, we need to listen attentively to them; yes, we need to show respect for their opinions; yes, they will ask for products and services we wouldn’t purchase. I gotcha, boss. But, always right — please. Let’s return to the business of health, and consider a conversation between a doctor and patient, the doctor’s customer:

“You have the flu. Go home and rest; here’s a prescription for the pain.”

“Thanks, doc.” Patient examines prescription. “Is this an antibiotic?”

“No. You have the flu, which is a virus. We’ve tested you for bacterial infection, and it was negative.”

“OK, but the thing is, I got sick this time last year, and I got better right after I started taking the antibiotic.”

Doctor checks the patient’s file. “That’s right, you had a bacterial infection last year, so that’s why the antibiotic made you better. Antibiotics only fight bacteria — they do nothing against a virus.”

“But my cousin took an antibiotic a few weeks ago, and he got better right away? I just want to get better, doc, and I KNOW the antibiotic will help. What’s the big deal?”

Yes, the customers are always right — except when they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Or they’re trying to defraud the buyer. Or they’re sacrificing long-term benefits for short-term gain. Or they’re trying to purchase materials for a weapon.

Aphorisms are fun and convenient, but are poor subsitutes for wisdom. Anyone who seriously believes the customer is always right has no business being in any position of customer service.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s