Is the customer always right?

This evening we received an email from an irate customer who had no reason to be. He was challenged when accessing one of our digital products, and closed the email off with "How much is YOUR time worth?" The insinuation was insulting, especially given the degree of customer service we had shown him prior to these troubles.

Being in a social coaching business, I have the good fortune of being able to scold people when they breach common conventions of etiquette and politeness. My response was simple: "My time is never too valuable to help someone in true need, and almost always too important to attack others unjustly."

Several hours later, I received an apology for the tone he previously took.

FedEx, Wal-Mart and other such businesses have pushed the edge of what is possible in good customer relations. As consumers, we now expect more than we did twenty years ago. That is a good thing. However, I refuse to let myself or anyone in my organization be inappropriately abused by customers. To allow such a thing would be to reinforce bad behavior, akin to giving in to a spoiled, whining child.

Is "customer relations" a two-way street, or is the customer always, unequivocally, 100% right?

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