5 Tips for Brand Integrity: Is the Customer Always Right, Even If They're Wrong?

Posted on May 10th 2014

5 Tips for Brand Integrity: Is the Customer Always Right, Even If They're Wrong?

There’s been a lot of talk recently regarding the age old adage: the customer is always right.  Alexander Kjerulf’s article “Top 5 Reasons Why ‘The Customer is Always Right’ Is Wrong” on The Huffington Post received over 200,000 Likes on Facebook and just under 50,000 Shares. Even by Huffington Post standards, that’s a pretty prevalent article.

Why did this article strike such a chord with readers? Because everyone, on all sides of the coin, has been in this situation, where the customer is always right has either infuriated you or blessed you. 

The Disney Institute took on this topic as well, and from it comes one of my new favorite axioms from Disney:

…we believe the extent to which an organization cares for its people is the extent to which the employees will care for the customers. We recognize that while our Guests are an important part of our organization, the relationship we foster with our Cast members has a great impact on that Guest experience. 

Gotta love them! 

Kjerulf calls out the 5 main downfalls of believing the customer is always right. They are:

1. It makes employees unhappy

2. It gives abrasive customers an unfair advantage

3. Some customers are bad for business

4. It results in worse customer service

5. Some customers are just plain wrong

As someone who has worked as a Cast Member for Disney, as well as a server and bartender throughout the years, I can honestly say that I couldn’t agree more with both Disney and Kjerulf on this one.

Social Media Customer Etiquette

These days everything and anything ends up in the public forum, from dinner receipts to parking availability. If an aspect of your business or company can be reviewed, it will be. And whether it’s good or bad, everyone will know about it.

So, what do you do in those situations where the customer is always right doesn’t apply – where the customer is actually in the wrong and yet everyone online sees only one side of the story?

Follow these steps to recovering brand integrity while sticking to your guns:

1. Keep Your Cool

Above all, no matter who is in the right and who is in the wrong, keep your cool! The last thing you want is another Amy's Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro meltdown. Any and every social media response must be timed perfectly, usually within an hour of the initial comment or review going live. However, just because you should respond as quickly as possible does not mean that you can’t thoroughly think through that response. 

2. Stand By Your Brand Message

In researching how to respond to negative comments or reviews, you will no doubt come across hundreds of tips from social media and reputation management experts, but few will remind you of the important of sticking to your brand ideals. Your business was built upon a mission statement, a purpose, a brand message that, no matter what, you should maintain at all times.

Social media can provide some of the most trying and difficult situations in terms of customer experience, but your business was built upon a driving principle and no matter what is said on Facebook or Yelp it is imperative that you stick to that driving principle. 

3. Stand by Your Employees

The employee is right, the customer is wrong – and yet your audience online only sees one side of the story. I once worked for a company that took the phrase the customer is always right to scary heights, going so far as to reprimand employees in front of customers. Just as Disney states the extent to which an organization cares for its people is the extent to which the employees will care for the customers, Kjerulf points out in the Huffington Post article how important it is to stand by your employees.



You can't treat your employees like serfs. You have to value them ... If they think that you won't support them when a customer is out of line, even the smallest problem can cause resentment.

Happy employees do make for happy customers. Treating your employees with respect does trickle down to the customers, and the same is true for online interactions. You should not only stand by your employees, but stand up for them online.

4. Provide Proof

Often times simply providing the proof of your stance can solve everything. Take this example from Starbucks:



In this situation, Starbucks replies with respect and yet provides proof to support the stance. The most wonderful aspect of this strategy is the response from true brand advocates. Notice how many Facebook users stood behind Starbucks in this situation, which leads me to my next tip.

5. Procure Brand Advocates

One of the greatest achievements that you can accomplish with social media marketing is to foster brand advocates, those individuals who will stand with your brand through thick and thin, good times and bad. Brand advocates will stand up for your brand, stand behind you in these difficult situations, and will be able to say those things that as a brand you cannot say.

The world of reviews and social media comments can be tricky. You are constantly being challenged and must be able to respond to situations where the customer might not be right all of the time. But if you respond with respect, apathy, and remain true to your brand, big things can happen.


Kandice Linwright

Owner, Linwright Design

I am a very proud momma of two beautiful boys, and a small business owner. For Local Marketing, Content Management and Social Media Marketing services, check out http://www.LinwrightDesign.com, a local marketing company that I've built from the ground up right here in Gilbert, Arizona. But, my true love is http:www.Linwright.com, my new and very exciting Social Media Consulting business. Now it's my turn to take all that I've learned over my long career in social media, and offer it to my clients!

I've been lucky enough to pick up my most successful Facebook Marketing strategies through trial and error as Social Media Director at http://www.Quaintise.com. If you're looking for some serious, full-scalle marketing, check out Raquel's agency located here in Arizona as well as Los Angeles. 

Life has been good to me, and I am thankful each and every day for that fact. Thanks for checking me out!

"Kandice is one of the most knowledgeable people I have met when it comes to social media and SEO marketing.  She has a very keen sense of what works and what doesn’t.  She is not only a great communicator when explaining her reasoning to me, but as a writer, Kandice has a very lucid way of communicating a company’s services, benefits, and does so while writing content for different vertical markets.  She is a supremely good writer.  She also has been very effective in helping us improve our own SEO rankings.  However, Kandice’s biggest strengths are her creative strategy skills.  She is on the forefront for what is new in technology and social media and how to leverage these assets to improve our client’s brands.” - Raquel Baldomar, CEO, Quaintise, LLC

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