Customers are Not Always Right, But They’re Never Wrong

May 4, 2009


Perhaps you’ve heard this one before: “The customer is always right”.

Frankly, that’s not true. Frequently customers are incorrect, confused, or have been misled by a third party. It happens all the time and it can be a real challenge to handle when they are convinced they are right.

Over the years we’ve had people tell us we’ve taken away features, but the truth is those features never existed. Other times people have come to us because someone told them we did something that we do not. All of these instances can be hard for our team to handle, and when communication becomes a challenge, like any relationship, the biggest factor is the person on the other side of the table.

That said, we’ve got the best customers in the world hands down. They are professional and smart – and often just too darn busy to give us a hard time because they are entrepreneurs (see professional and smart). But we’ve got enough people using FreshBooks that we get a good number of outliers too – people who can be a challenge for one reason or another.

Last week we were working with a demanding customer. After a lot of back and forth, let’s just say some  feathers were ruffled on the FreshBooks end of the relationship. In an effort to break what had become a cycle of frustration, Andrew did the right thing and cc’d me on an email to the customer suggesting that he was tapped out and that the customer now had access to the CEO. Only one problem, Andrew started the email like this:

“Hi [Customer XXX], I don’t believe this to be a fair statement.”

And that’s where we made a mistake. While Andrew did not say this customer was wrong, I’m certain that’s all he heard.

Andrew is a super sharp guy and had invested a great deal in this relationship – I know him well enough to know this was just a moment of weakness. But I’ll tell you what, it did not leave me with many options.
Fortunately, the customer in question proved to be a fair and reasonable individual, and wrote a fairly comical reply to Andrew and I:

“…customers are always right – especially when they are wrong.

Get used to it. :)”

This dialog continued and we got things sorted, but the moral of the story is, when you’re providing service it’s not about being right. It’s about supporting people on the other end of the line. Andrew did the correct thing by sending this person my way because he did not see another path to making the customer happy. That’s the right call.


about the author

Co-Founder & CEO, FreshBooks Mike is the co-founder and CEO of FreshBooks, the world’s #1 cloud accounting software for self-employed professionals. Built in 2003 after he accidentally saved over an invoice, Mike spent 3.5 years growing FreshBooks from his parents’ basement. Since then, over 10 million people have used FreshBooks to save time billing, and collect billions of dollars. A lover of the outdoors, Mike has been bitten so many times it’s rumored he’s the first human to have developed immunity to mosquitoes.