Is the Client Really Always Right?

The adage “the client is always right” does not carry the heft that it used to…but it still bears the same kind of angst when deciding how to handle delicate or difficult situations involving our employees.

I’ve had clients who are militantly defensive of their clients, even if it’s to the detriment of a solid performing employee. And there are others who passionately support their people to the irritation of a disgruntled client.

There is no “rule” on how to handle this. And because one size doesn’t fit all, it means that you need to consider the circumstances in each situation before taking action.

You can’t grow a business without satisfied clients. And, you can’t grow a business without employees who feel valued in their work.

In a recent conversation, my client (Sam) was troubled because an important client of his made a negative comment about Sam’s employee, Mitch. Sam’s initial reaction was to reprimand the Mitch, but upon unpacking this scenario, it was discovered that his client is a bully who basically took advantage of Mitch.

We came up with a solution where Sam will speak with Mitch and provide him with some coaching about how to handle this client (and other bullies) more effectively. Sam will also speak with the client to acknowledge the negative innuendo and to find out what is really bothering the client.

Obviously, this example is only one situation, and the point is that each situation needs to be evaluated based on the circumstances.

The client is not always right, and neither is the employee. Your job is to make sure that you take time to evaluate what is often below the surface and don’t jump to conclusions. Good communication can go a long way to make each party feel heard and understood.

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