No. The customer isn’t always right. (But you want to make her feel like she is.)

In general, the phrase “the customer is always right” is attributed to department store founder Marshall Field. But was Mr. Field right about customers never being wrong? Micah Solomon, author and Forbes contributor, and I believe that Mr. Field’s words should be followed more in spirit—except in times when they need to be followed to a T.

Is the customer always right? For whatever reason, I’m asked this question more than any other customer-related question. Doesn’t matter the forum or the context; it seems to always come up.

So, here’s my definitive answer.

No. The customer isn’t always right. But you want to make her feel like she is.

“Right” and “wrong,” even in situations much more crucial than a mere customer service misunderstanding, are hard to sort out. Think of the sworn—but completely misremembered—eyewitness testimony that has convicted so many innocent men and women.

So in working with customers, your goal needs to be the polar opposite of trying to play Sherlock Holmes, by and large.* It’s not your goal to make it clear to customer how inaccurate their positions are. Instead, focus on putting yourself in your customers’ shoes, their eyes in your sockets, until you understand why they feel, and in fact “are,” “right.” And make them feel good about it.

They’re your customers, after all.

*Are there exceptions? Absolutely. Including safety and health-related scenarios, where sorting out the facts matters more than anything else. And expensive, ongoing B2B situations where there are disagreements on details of contracts that truly need to be resolved in a factual manner. Though even in such situations, there likely are gracious ways to demonstrate your factual correctness without proving the other party baldly “wrong.”

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