The customer is always right, except when he’s not

Jan 09 | 2024

Ed Katz, founder and former owner of Peachtree Movers in Atlanta, Georgia, offers his opinions on when and why to say no to customers.

Ed Katz

We’ve all heard the slogan that says, “The customer is always right,” right?  However, what if your customer—especially post Covid-19—is rude, impatient, or uncivil to you and your employees? What if they threaten to destroy your reputation on social media if you have a service failure or disappoint them?

I believe if you tolerate this type of bad behaviour, it can be detrimental to your employees and business. When I owned my moving company, I felt that not all customers were a fit for our business. Our attitude was that when we met with the prospective client, not only were we on ‘probation’, but our prospective client was, too. In other words, the prospect had the right not to hire us, and we, in turn, had the right not to give them an estimate. If a prospect was disrespectful to my salesperson or me, we could only imagine how they would treat our crew if we did their move. There are some people you can never please, and we opted not to try to please them.

We didn’t want customers - we wanted good customers who would appreciate our great service, treat our employees with respect, and pay their bills on time. Just like other successful, professional service providers such as architects, lawyers, and consultants, we selected who we wanted to do business with.

We knew that moving was often disruptive, unsettling, and traumatic.  Our goal was to minimise (but not eliminate) stress. We were known for solving our customers’ worst nightmares and problems. We rendered a premium service and in return, we charged a premium price. We never discounted.

For example, IBM used to call us once a year and say, “We heard that you’re the best moving company in Atlanta. Because of your stellar reputation, we’d like you to bid on our annual contract.” I’d always ask, “What is your prime consideration in awarding the contract? Is it the lowest price?” “Yes sir,” would be their reply. I’d then end the conversation by saying, “I’m sorry, we don’t qualify to bid on your job because we’ll probably be the highest price.” My attitude was that we were not in the estimating business; we were in the moving business. That’s the reason we never bid on government moves because they always chose the lowest bidder.

I could give you lots of other examples of prospective clients who were not a fit for my company, but here’s one of my favourite encounters ...

Photo: Ed Katz, head of the International Office Moving Institute (IOMI)

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