The guest is NOT always right


We have been fed a lie. They made us believe that the customer is always right and in order to have satisfied guests and a successful business we have to follow this mantra. But is this exclusive customer-centric approach the right one?

The slogan “The customer is always right” was firstly coined in 1909 by Harry Gordon Selfridge. His original aim was to attract customers and convincing them that they will get good service at his company and at the same time to incentivize employees to give good customer service. However, I firmly believe that this approach is not always successful and could be damaging for the business in same cases.


We have been used to think that guests are always right – by definition – and this has led to the advent of a new profession: the pro complainer. They feel entitled to demand just about anything, supported by this idea that they are always right. Therefore, they will demand better treatments or conditions. You can easily spot these customers because they usually complain for no reason, turn down your compensation offers, demanding a financial compensation – most of the time not proportional to the potential issue – and threatening the staff with the possibility of a bad review. “I am afraid we do not work under threat” is my favorite slogan in these cases.


ùNot all customers are good customers and you can’t please everyone. Your investment in a bad guest will cost you in terms of energy, time and resources and this will eventually affect the experience of your frequent customers. As a professional, you appreciate all your guests and you know that some of them will require more attention than others, but do not “waste” precious time on permanently unsatisfied customers.


Finding employees who you trust and respect and creating an effective working team is one of the hardest tasks in hospitality. If you are lucky enough to have succeeded in this endeavour, you don’t want to risk losing your employees by siding with the guest by default. Indeed, by stating that “the customer is always right”, you position your team members on a lower level compared with the guest, instigating resentment and risking to lower the quality of the service. On the contrary, backing them up in this sort of situations will prove them that you respect their work, their judgement and opinions – reinforcing even more the bond inside the team itself.

In conclusion, we have to keep in mind you can’t be everything to everyone. If you can honestly say you have done everything you could to deliver the service promised, then there is no reason to be so hard on yourself when losing a guest – customers will come and go.

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