The customer is always right, not necessarily.

This comes from the airline industry but could easily be applied to any business where you have to deal with the public.

One woman who frequently flew on Southwest was constantly disappointed with every aspect of the company’s operation. In fact, she became known as the “Pen Pal” because after every flight she wrote in with a complaint.
She didn’t like the fact that the company didn’t assign seats; she didn’t like the absence of a first-class section; she didn’t like not having a meal in flight; she didn’t like Southwest’s boarding procedure; she didn’t like the flight attendants’ sporty uniforms and the casual atmosphere.
Her last letter, reciting a litany of complaints, momentarily stumped Southwest’s customer relations people. They bumped it up to Herb’s [Kelleher, CEO of Southwest at the time] desk, with a note: ‘This one’s yours.’
In sixty seconds Kelleher wrote back and said, ‘Dear Mrs. Crabapple, We will miss you. Love, Herb.'”
The phrase “The customer is always right” was originally coined in 1909 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store in London, and is typically used by businesses to convince customers that they will get good service at this company and convince employees to give customers good service.

However, I think businesses should abandon this phrase once and for all — ironically, because it leads to worse customer service.

Here are the top five reasons why “The Customer Is Always Right” is wrong.

1: It Makes Employees Unhappy

Gordon Bethune is a brash Texan (as is Herb Kelleher, coincidentally) who is best known for turning Continental Airlines around “From Worst to First,” a story told in his book of the same title from 1998. He wanted to make sure that both customers and employees liked the way Continental treated them, so he made it very clear that the maxim “the customer is always right” didn’t hold sway at Continental.

In conflicts between employees and unruly customers he would consistently side with his people. Here’s how he put it:

When we run into customers that we can’t reel back in, our loyalty is with our employees. They have to put up with this stuff every day. Just because you buy a ticket does not give you the right to abuse our employees …
We run more than 3 million people through our books every month. One or two of those people are going to be unreasonable, demanding jerks. When it’s a choice between supporting your employees, who work with you every day and make your product what it is, or some irate jerk who demands a free ticket to Paris because you ran out of peanuts, whose side are you going to be on?
You can’t treat your employees like serfs. You have to value them … If they think that you won’t support them when a customer is out of line, even the smallest problem can cause resentment.
So Bethune trusted his people over unreasonable customers. What I like about this attitude is that it balances employees and customers. The “always right” maxim squarely favors the customer which is a bad idea, because, as Bethune says, it causes resentment among employees.

Of course, there are plenty of examples of bad employees giving lousy customer service but trying to solve this by declaring the customer “always right” is counter-productive.

2: It Gives Abrasive Customers an Unfair Advantage

Using the slogan “The customer is always right,” abusive customers can demand just about anything — they’re right by definition, aren’t they? This makes the employees’ jobs that much harder when trying to rein them in.

Also, it means that abusive people get better treatment and conditions than nice people. That always seemed wrong to me, and it makes much more sense to be nice to the nice customers to keep them coming back.

3: Some Customers Are Bad for Business

Most businesses think that “the more customers the better”. But some customers are quite simply bad for business.

Danish IT service provider ServiceGruppen proudly tell this story:

One of our service technicians arrived at a customer’s site for a maintenance task, and to his great shock was treated very rudely by the customer.
When he’d finished the task and returned to the office, he told management about his experience. They promptly cancelled the customer’s contract.
Just like Kelleher dismissed the irate lady who kept complaining (but somehow also kept flying on Southwest), ServiceGruppen fired a bad customer. Note that it was not even a matter of a financial calculation — not a question of whether either company would make or lose money on that customer in the long run. It was a simple matter of respect and dignity and of treating their employees right.

4: It Results in Worse Customer Service

Rosenbluth International, a corporate travel agency since bought by American Express, took it even further. CEO Hal Rosenbluth wrote an excellent book about their approach called Put The Customer Second – Put your people first and watch’em kick butt.

Rosenbluth argues that when you put the employees first, they put the customers first. Put employees first and they will be happy at work. Employees who are happy at work give better customer service because:

They care more about other people, including customers
They have more energy
They are happy, meaning they are more fun to talk to and interact with
They are more motivated
On the other hand, when the company and management consistently side with customers instead of with employees, it sends a clear message that:

Employees are not valued
Treating employees fairly is not important
Employees have no right to respect from customers
Employees have to put up with everything from customers
When this attitude prevails, employees stop caring about service. At that point, genuinely good service is almost impossible — the best customers can hope for is fake good service. You know the kind I mean: courteous on the surface only.

5: Some Customers Are Just Plain Wrong

Herb Kelleher agrees, as this passage From Nuts! the excellent book about Southwest Airlines shows:

Herb Kelleher […] makes it clear that his employees come first — even if it means dismissing customers. But aren’t customers always right? “No, they are not,” Kelleher snaps. “And I think that’s one of the biggest betrayals of employees a boss can possibly commit. The customer is sometimes wrong. We don’t carry those sorts of customers. We write to them and say, ‘Fly somebody else. Don’t abuse our people.'”
If you still think that the customer is always right, read this story from Bethune’s book From Worst to First:

A Continental flight attendant once was offended by a passenger’s child wearing a hat with Nazi and KKK emblems on it. It was pretty offensive stuff, so the attendant went to the kid’s father and asked him to put away the hat. “No,” the guy said. “My kid can wear what he wants, and I don’t care who likes it.”
The flight attendant went into the cockpit and got the first officer, who explained to the passenger the FAA regulation that makes it a crime to interfere with the duties of a crew member. The hat was causing other passengers and the crew discomfort, and that interfered with the flight attendant’s duties. The guy better put away the hat.
He did, but he didn’t like it. He wrote many nasty letters. We made every effort to explain our policy and the federal air regulations, but he wasn’t hearing it. He even showed up in our executive suite to discuss the matter with me. I let him sit out there. I didn’t want to see him and I didn’t want to listen to him. He bought a ticket on our airplane, and that means we’ll take him where he wants to go. But if he’s going to be rude and offensive, he’s welcome to fly another airline.
The fact is that some customers are just plain wrong, that businesses are better of without them, and that managers siding with unreasonable customers over employees is a very bad idea, that results in worse customer service.
So any business needs to put its people first — and watch them put the customers first.

Versatis Patches

As nearly all pharmacists are aware by now the PCRS/HSE won’t pay for Versatis patches on any of the schemes unless the GP jumps through hoops and follows this with a backwards flip.  And this is only for the patients with shingles.  Heaven help if they might need it for any other condition.

Well a colleague of mine posted this afternoon about one of their patients.  They had been presented with a hospital prescription for Versatis for a DPS patient who had shingles.  They checked with the hospital doctor who said that they had tried to get approval on the PCRS website/portal but could not do so.  A phone call to the PCRS confirmed that only the patient’s GP could get approval.  So now a patient sick with shingles has to make an appointment to visit their GP (and presumably pay for it) so that they may get a vital pain killing medicine.  I say may as there is still no guarantee that the PCRS/HSE will approve it.


Building a Better Health Service


May the force be with you. A walk on the dark side.

There’s a wonderful article by Richard Collis in this month’s IPU Review.  I would love it if the IPU would make a pdf of it available and I could post it here.  (Or maybe they might post a copy on line themselves.)  He writes about his experiences on the PSI Council and the dysfunctional attitudes that seem to hold court there.  Things like despite the Corbally judgement the reluctance to use mediation because they want to be seen to be tough.  No regard to costs.

I am impressed by one of the closing statements.  “One final reflection: could it be that the culture of control among the Executive also reflects a lack of confidence in their ability to sustain their own views in a more open and combative forum?”

If you have a copy of this months Review I would recommend reading and studying it.  If not, get a copy.  It vital to all of our professional futures that we understand what is going on in Fenian St.

A minor illness scheme

Here’s a nice piece from The Pharmacist, a UK journal for pharmacists.  It talks about the benefits of a minor illness scheme in the UK.  There has already been a trial here in four towns but little more seems to have come of it.  There is huge potential for improved services for patients and savings but I doubt that the HSE will be able to see beyond the end of next month’s budget.

PSI Practice Reviews

So this is the latest whizz bang crock of shit that the PSI has come up with.

“Selected” pharmacists have to undergo a review of their practice in the RCSI over a weekend soon.  Now these are not pharmacists who have had any issues raised over their competence.  Just everyday Joe Soaps who have declared on their annual return that they are in a patient facing role.  And what do they get in return?  Nothing! Not even expenses.  We have a quango regulator with fees that are more than 10 times the equivalent anywhere in Europe, sitting on a reserve of more than €10 million and they can’t even pay the expenses for a self employed pharmacist to travel to Dublin.

This assumes that they can get to Dublin and back in one day.  Bad luck if you live and practice (and provide a necessary service) in some of our beloved islands more extreme regions.  These poor sods can throw in an overnight stay as well.  And what happens your pharmacy while you have this jolly to Dublin?  Closed?  No, you’ll have the PSI down your neck for that.  No, it’s a days locum presuming that you can get locums in your part of the world.  More expense.

Why just Dublin?  Why can’t they have this interrogation in any other part of the country?  Woe betide that these semi-civil servants may have to leave their plush surroundings and get their feet dirty.

There is no other profession, certainly in Ireland at least that has to put up with this crap.  Remember as I said above this is not for pharmacists who have had any complaints or concerns raised about their abilities just Joe and Josephine Soaps taken at random from the register.

What will they think of next?  Sitting in on patient consultations, charging us for inspections, publishing inspection reports in the media, publishing review reports in the media?  I ‘ve no doubt that some of the geniuses in there have already considered these.  This is regulation gone mad.

What if you decided not to attend or cooperate?  Well that’s just what a GP did recently. The Fitness To practice committee made no adverse findings against him so it seems that powers are limited in this.  The worst that seems can happen is just bullying by the PSI.  “We’ll put you through the ringer and make you sweat even though there is little we can do in reality.”  Classic bully boy tactics.  CORU who regulate the other professions have put their CPD of registrants on hold bacause of legal concerns.

This is regulation run mad.  The PSI has 10 times the number of staff of it’s equivalent in Northern Ireland and 10 times the fees.  They have to dream up shite like this to justify their existence. Things like the Pharmacy Assessment folders are another example of them trying to find ways to spend money.

All of this is overseen by a Fine Gael Minister for Health.  Remember FG are supposed to be the party of business.  Here they sit content to watch mainly small businesses being pommelled to the ground by a regulator running out of control.  Normally here I would finish by saying “Shame on you” but I’ve no doubt that politicians and civil servants have long since lost the notions of shame.  Don’t get me started on what has the IPU done for pharmacists is this situation.

HSE Wastes More Money On Consultants

The HSE are set to spend a load of public money on consultants basically to get them to say what they want to hear.  The tender looks for a review of pharmacy fees using amongst other things comparisons with other countries and discussions with key stakeholders.   Surprisingly enough the key stakeholders don’t include pharmacists or our appointed representatives the Irish Pharmacy Union.  Neither do the terms of reference include FEMPI which is still in force for pharmacy along with many other parts of the public service.  They might even want to have a look back on the Dorgan Report that did exactly this several years ago.  I guess that they are a bit afraid of their own expert groups opinion.

How much money will be wasted on this self serving report which will in all likelihood have to be scrapped because they won’t even talk to those at the coal face.


Link to tender document