When I hear companies say they have a “customer first” mindset I cringe. While well-intentioned, such a policy often backfires!

On a recent tour of Ireland the tour guide described his worst experience with a customer.  He explained that in a group of 40 people he had one person who was antagonistic and abusive towards him and rude to other guests.  This occurred several times.  In a “customer first” culture, the guide (and the guests) would have had to endure the poor behavior and it would have impacted their experience of the tour.

Instead the guide took a more balanced approach and [rightly] assumed that the enjoyment of the majority of the guests as well as his employee engagement (he probably called it something else) would be better served by delivering an ultimatum.  So at the next occurrence, in the midst of a heated disagreement, the guide pulled the passenger aside and said in effect, “either calm down and proceed with no further outbursts, or your bags will be dropped curbside.”

To me, this is a “customer focused” mindset, not customer first.  The guide was intent on delivering a superior experience to customers but had to decide if another customer was impacting his ability to do so.  When he determined there were no other alternatives, he made the tough call.  (As an aside, I wish I knew whether this was “company policy” or whether this was just the sound judgment of an individual employee.  Either way, my hat’s off to the guide.)

The pivot point is that people serve customers.  If a customer becomes such a burden to employees (and in this case other guests), we have to decide if the “value” of a customer outweighs the “cost” to our employee engagement.  Surely there are better customers than the one described above!

How Customer First Can Backfire
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