The Customer is always right!

Hi Everyone,

I thought that title would get your attention, and I’m sure you have heard that before.  I have two stories that I have told over the years about great customer service and I want to share those stories with you.

Many years ago I met Stew Leonard, who owns farm dairy stores in Connecticut.  He told the story of a customer who brought back a container of egg nog and told Stew that it was sour.  Stew said he immediately became very defensive and said, “that is impossible, our egg nog is fresh every day!”  he said he went home and told his wife Mary Ann what happened.  After he told the story, Mary Ann said, “Why would you do that, the customer is always right, do you know what we as customers do when we are treated that way?, we quit shopping at your store!”  That was a wake up call for Stew, and he had a large stone engraved in front of his store that said, “Rule 1, the customer is always right.  Rule 2, if the customer is ever wrong, reread rule 2.”  He said several weeks later at Thanksgiving time, another customer brought back the carcass of a turkey and said, “This turkey wasn’t any good”  Stew replied, “no problem I can give you another turkey or your money back” The next story is from Sam Walton, founder of Walmart.   A couple of years after I had been with Walmart, I found a video with a message from Mr. Walton.  In the video Mr. Walton said, “I don’t  think we are doing enough for our customers, so today if a customer comes in and buys a fishing rod, and he goes fishing, and he falls and breaks that rod on a rock and brings it back, I want you to give him a new fishing rod.”  So when I joined  Walmart in Olean, New York, we had a terrible customer service score, so the store manager turned the issue over to me.  I told him about Stew’s story, and his response was, “Do whatever you have to do to get that score up.”  So I met with our Service Desk associates, and I told them my job was to help them get a better score, and we would no longer question any returns.  Now you can imagine their reaction, especially coming from the new guy, and yes they did ask to talk to the store manager, and his response was, “Ron is in charge of the Service Desk.”  After they calmed down, I asked them, “What percentage of returns do you think are people taking advantage of us?”  The answer was one percent, so I told them, “Why would we risk antagonizing 99% of our customers because of that 1%.”  I also told them the story from Stew Leonard. The next month our customer service numbers were excellent, and there was less stress at the service desk.   I should also mention that our sales went up! Customer service is the most important thing in a business, if you customer service is bad, you will fail.  Also, remember customer service isn’t just for retail, it is for all businesses Have a great week, and we will see you next Friday!


  1. Good words to do business by, Ron. I’m always trying to think of different ways to keep my customers happy (i.e., New business discounts, helping them find new equipment, placing orders for them). Thanks for posting rules #’s 1 & 2 as they’re always good business reminders.

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