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Opinion polls: The customer is always right – right?

When market research goes astray! Share your thoughts in opinion polls


It’s true that customers are vital to the success of any business. And good customers are even more essential. Having the input and support of customers is what drives a brand’s success (which is why we ask you to share your thoughts in opinion polls and paid online surveys) – but does the old adage “the customer is always right” still hold true?

According to recent online surveys and opinion polls, this is no longer such popularity for the phrase. It was a quote from Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store, in 1909 to paint a picture of the excellent customer service that could be expected from his employees. However, many businesses are now abandoning this ethos in favour of a more employee-focused attitude.

After opinion polls and studies revealed that the idea of putting the customer first – no matter what – was simply disheartening to employees, some businesses began to change their focus and put their staff first. According to a survey conducted by Warwick University, happy workers are 12% more productive, and the idea goes that by putting your staff first and customers second that staff will feel empowered to offer great service to the customers that really matter. By sharing your thoughts in opinion polls, many employers have been able to take the leap and instead back up their staff , rather than potentially unreasonable customers, which boosts morale and aims to encourage loyal staff who love their jobs.

This isn’t to say that customers are now less important – it’s more that good customers remain important, and bad customers shouldn’t be appeased simply because they are a ‘customer’. Indeed, some customers may well use up finite resources, demand a freebie and still post a bad review on a website. We have all been in situations where another customer is creating a scene and the staff abandon you to focus on the one who shouts the loudest.

This article about unreasonable customers got me thinking about some of the situations I have witnessed when the customer almost certainly wasn’t right. Here are some rather-awkward examples that I have experienced:

Surgery strife

Whilst at my busy local Doctor’s, I was kept waiting by the person in front of me who had clearly gone well over their allocated 10 minutes. As they were walking out I heard them moaning to the over-worked GP about the parking outside, and how they ought to make the spaces a bit wider as they were very over-weight due to their tablets. The entire waiting room looked around in horror at the wasted GP’s time, and public complaint, whilst they listened to this tirade which went on and on. Note to potential complainers – pick your audience carefully.

Flight dislike

On a long flight to Dubai, one of the passengers decided to complain about their long list of grievances to the stressed cabin crew who were trying to give out the hot dinners. It took three staff to calm down one passenger, whilst the rest of the cabin was starving hungry. By appeasing one loud customer the poor crew had unfortunately managed to upset around 100 others.

Free food

A family member of mine can be a self-proclaimed ‘bad customer’. She eats out regularly and expects a very high standard at all times. That said, she rarely pays full price for any food or drink as she almost always finds fault with the food or the service and makes a very public complaint. High end restaurants usually fall over themselves to offer discounts to appease her, which has resulted in multiple free meals and several free bottles of champagne (but admittedly not many friends willing to accompany her now).

Zoo to-do

On a recent trip to the zoo, my friend was scandalised that they no longer had the same animals as pictured on their website. Being a salesman, he negotiated our entry fee down by almost 30%. We forced a queue to form behind us as this was all going on, but the person behind the desk seemed very certain that we should be happy with our experience there. As we left, having paid much less than the advertised cost and to my embarrassment, I heard other customers asking for the same deal.

Honeymoon hoo-ha

When the staff at our hotel discovered we were there on our honeymoon, they kindly gave us some chocolates and celebratory fizz. The Texan gentleman next to us got very upset by this and decided to complain loudly to the manager that he had been there 6 times before and had never been given anything. He demanded the same treats or threatened that he would never holiday there again. The poor manager had to relent and deliver the same to him. As the man left to go to the buffet, he slipped on a wedge of lime that had been casually dropped next to his seat. I am sure this wasn’t quite an accident.


What do you think? Is the customer always right, or do the staff have a right to ignore the ones who are unreasonable? Don’t forget to share your thoughts in opinion polls and paid surveys at Opinion Outpost UK today, and join in the latest discussion on our Facebook page.


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