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The old adage says the customer is always right, and that’s a phrase modern businesses have been built on. However, social media has upped the ante with customer service, leading some to question whether it’s necessarily true anymore.
For the most part in brick and mortar stores, I’d say it is. Complaints are made on the spot and in person; the employee is face-to-face with the disgruntled customer. However when complaints are aired out in the public domain via Facebook or Twitter, some companies are finding out that the tables may in fact have turned ever so slightly.
This is what Liberty Bottleworks, a customized water bottle manufacture, learned when a customer complained on their Facebook page about their staff not working weekends and during the holidays to solve a payment issue. The company’s COO explained how they, as a company, put their employees and their families first before their product. (He also made it known that they did indeed try to contact the customer to fix the payment issue, but the customer hung up on them instead.)
Even though this initial response was taken down, a screenshot of it, taken by an employee of Liberty Bottleworks, went viral, prompting people who agreed with Ryan – that this customer was being unreasonable and rude about working during weekends and holidays – to become customers themselves. Not only has this lead to a major increase in brand awareness, it has also lead to an influx of sales. All of this came because the COO stuck with the company’s core values.
Did Liberty Bottleworks also unintentionally come up with a new marketing tactic for other companies that find themselves in a similar situation to emulate? Yes and no… I believe it mostly worked because of the sincere family values and the patriotic overtones it incurred, which struck a chord with some – particularly with the proximity to the holidays.
While imitating this form of guerrilla response could possibly work for other companies, the sincerity of the company’s beliefs, if they’re going to be used as reasoning, is key for it to be successful. Anything that could come off feeling faux or forced could damage a company.
Examples of this being done wrongly or poorly can be seen almost daily if you flip on a TV and watch commercials with used car salespeople, lawyers and others, trotting out their families like ponies to try and illicit the same feelings that this spontaneous, emotional, yet thoughtful response to this unreasonable customer unintentionally provoked.
So does the adage “The customer is always right?” still really hold true? I’d argue no, at least not always. There are many times when the customer is right, but when your company has done everything they can to fix the situation, the customer might be wrong.
And when a company compromises its beliefs and core values for a customer, then both parties are wrong.