Simon Sinek: Actually, the Customer Is Not Always Right

Simon Sinek: Actually, the Customer Is Not Always Right

I think it’s funny when we are given advice
to always put the customer first.
That means employees come second inherently
if you’re going to put customer first.
Customers come and go.
Obviously we want to work to keep them loyal
but its employees who spend more time at work
than they do with their families.
It’s employees who are asking to give their
blood and sweat and tears to advance our vision.
And so it’s a leader’s responsibility
to take care of the people first and the people
will take care of each other and the customer.
Any leader who prioritizes a customer literally
saying I care more about an external constituency
than I do about the people who are actually
working here.
The funny thing is a company like Southwest
Airlines, a company like Costco that are renowned
for their customer service as matters of policy
do not believe the customer is always right.
They do not believe that the customer comes
The irony is is these great customer service
companies actually care first about their
own people, their employees and they expect
their employees to care about their customers.
Let me tell you a story, a true story.
Some months ago I stayed at the Four Seasons
in Las Vegas.
It is a wonderful hotel and the reason it’s
a wonderful hotel is not because of the fancy
Any hotel can buy a fancy bed.
It’s because of the people who work there.
Now when you walk the halls of the Four Seasons
and someone says hello to you, you really
get the sense that they wanted to say hello,
not that they were told to say hello.
So in the lobby of the Four Seasons they have
a coffee bar and one afternoon I went to buy
a cup of coffee and I happened to be served
by a barista named Noah.
Noah was wonderful.
He was fantastic.
He was friendly.
He was funny.
He was engaging.
I think I ended up giving a 100 percent tip.
And so as is my way I asked Noah do you like
your job here?
And Noah said I love my job here.
So I followed up and said what is it that
the Four Seasons is doing that would make
you say to me I love my job?
And without skipping a beat he said throughout
the day managers will walk past me and ask
me how I’m doing.
They’ll ask me if I need anything to do
my job any better.
He said not just my manager, any manager.
And then he said something magical.
He said I also work at Caesar’s Palace and
there the managers walk past and make sure
we’re doing everything right.
They catch is if we’re doing anything wrong.
There I just try to get through the day.
I keep my head below the radar and I just
want to cash my paycheck.
Same person.
And the customer will have a different experience
not because of Noah.
Noah is a good guy.
The customer will have a different experience
because of how the management regards Noah.
Does management believe Noah is the number
one priority or does management believe that
the customer is the number one priority?
And again the irony is is it’s the organization
that believes that Noah is more important
that then Noah is better capable of taking
care of the customer.
It is a linear process and I think so many
people in business forget that.
Yes, of course ultimately you want the customer
to be happy.
Of course.
But the methodology is actually to prioritize
the wellbeing of our people.
I think the wrong thinking about customers
comes from the fact that we look at results
more than we look at process.
Results are much easier to measure and so
we talk about profit first.
That’s because it’s easy to measure.
We talk about, we prioritize literally money
over trust because how do you measure trust?
It’s more difficult.
The same with customer service.
The result would be great customer service
but the process is the long, hard work of
building a strong culture in which the people
take care of each other so that they can take
care of the customer.
That, it’s more ethereal and harder to measure.
I can measure customer loyalty, customer service
and sales and return business and things like
So I think it’s human nature to go to the
thing that we can easily see and easily count.
And in the case of customer service that would
be the end product, not the process that got
us there.

89 thoughts on “Simon Sinek: Actually, the Customer Is Not Always Right”

  1. If you try to keep everyone happy you'll lose both. I've also seen work places that care for the employees more than the customers tended to have happier workers. A happy worker works twice as fast, doesn't hurt to make that happen.

  2. I find it extremely frustrating people try and take advantage of this customer first mentality. black people who abused return policies, or who feel their own some giant deal….. sorry just venting a little.

  3. This!, especially in retail is one of the best if not the best mindsets to have. Happy employees that are compensated and taken care of by there corporation properly, give back 100% more positive customer service then those that are not.

  4. Their complacency is our strength as the next set of entrepreneurs taking reigns. We see how their businesses have succeeded in the areas they deemed important. And see how we will improve such structures. From my time working in fast food to my times in construction. I've seen for myself how people are forgotten and discarded. How easily the people around you start becoming less than…. I believe everybody has that spark. It just takes figuring out how to ignite that spark to a flame. When a business values what they create as much as how they build the people up around the, will a business be truly successful. Ohana…. And we as human beings are just one big family. How we treat each other is just as important as how we make money. Money doesn't comfort you when you're alone. Gotta admit, I love the resistance building my dream. Means I'm heading in the right direction. 🙂

  5. Happy employees provide better customer service. Management undermining their staff makes for unhappy employees.

  6. I work at walgreens, and this theory is proven even in the same organization. The day managers are absolutely horrid. Rude, cranky, inefficient, lazy. The night managers are nice, friendly, hilarious and caring. I'm going back to day shift next week and actually CRIED and almost had an anxiety attack! After being on overnights for the past few months I came to love my coworkers like family and scurry out the door as soon as the day managers came in. Not I have to be thrown in to their chaos again. I'm changing jobs soon to work at a hospital, and I just have to say, for such a shitty, barely-paying job, the managers are really what make you come in to work.

  7. I do believe modern, Western corporate priority is…

    1st. Shareholders
    2nd. Shareholders
    3rd. Shareholders
    4th. Shareholders
    5th. Executives

    …and tied for a VERY distant Last Place are Customers, Employees, and Everyone Else.

  8. I used to work at McDonald's and yeah, customers will change their minds every five seconds, even after they order their food. Some come in knowing that they can fuck up an employees day by being intentionally vague, just to complain to a manager, who will then start berating the employee. Had my manager stuck up for me in these situations and maybe not called me an idiot I would've stuck around more than 6 months.

  9. And I thought I was the only one who thought this way….if more companies thought like this we'd all be better off

  10. While I'm sure happy employees are likely to be more pleasant to deal with as a customer, I'm not sure if putting employees above customers (as part of a company's culture) is the most effective path to success. Amazon is an example of a company that prioritizes customers far above its own employees. Even though many Amazon employees may be unhappy, the company is still highly regarded as having some of the best customer service around.

  11. The expression isn't about individual customers and their individual questions, complaints, wishes or the like. It has to do with your overall business. If you think your product or service is awesome, but customers don't, then they are "right" in that your business is not serving their needs. If you think it's worth $10, but customers will only pay $5, then you are charging too much or will go out of business hoping they'll adapt to you.

  12. I believe this, am NOT trolling with this comment to get his book some pub, but I absolutely am heading to the library today to check out his 'Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action'. I just googled his name and that book title popped up. Good stuff. Checking it out…

  13. slippery slope this one
    when i worked for companies who were staff first, a culture was created among staff that the customer was there for them, not they were there for the customer

  14. It's absolutely true, for every dollar you put into your employees personal, emotional, and physical care, you will see approximately 4 dollars in gross margin.

    My boss asked the accountants and investors where he should invest, and 4 out of six said ask the employees what would make their lives happier within reason.

  15. I'm also a barista/cook in Vegas and love my job. Not 4 Seasons though. small time coffee shop. our to reviews are on our customer service skills and the owner definitely puts us first.

  16. This is talking about the views of management, not the workers. Every time I've known a person who is a shitty employee they always have the attitude of "the customer is not always right". Managers don't work with customers, they work with employees and the put the people they work with as "always right". The employees should do the same as they DO work with customers and should treat them as they are always right.

    Reminds me of a sub shop in town. They'd act as if the customer was never right, and even try to explain (using faulty logic) why the customer was wrong. So I decided to never eat there again, and less than a year later they were out of business. Subs were great too so you know its purely shitty customer service which ended them.

  17. This is a semantical argument, but I'd say you're still putting the customer first if you're only making sure your workers are happy for the end goal of them treating your customers better.

  18. Try working at Home Depot … employees and grease spots are on the same level , but incredibly rude customers who
    are trying to put one over , get a red carpet treatment

  19. As a manager for a large retail chain, what can I do to make my employees happy? Even if I am undermined and have no support from my own bosses?

  20. I agree until the end. It's not that profit or results are easier to measure, it's just that they are the priority. You have to actually care about your employees to make sure they are treated as people first and employees second.

    Corporations are literally made to make money for shareholders, that is their purpose. Putting the customer first is only done because it is believed to be the best way of maximizing profit, nothing more, nothing less.

  21. "Do you need anything to do your job better?"
    Yeah a raise….
    "We're moving in a different direction and no longer require your services"

  22. I've been in the customer service industry for over a decade… omg I've been waiting to hear ANYBODY say how I feel. the customer isn't always right. making an employee feel valuable will reward the guest as well. 🙂

  23. The reasoning here, while sound, carries with it a perceptively reductive core. In "Being and Nothingness", Sartre wrote of a waiter whose synthetic happiness, had perniciously occluded critical character development. It was, to borrow from the author "de mauvaise foi" — bad faith. Sinek has for us, valuable insight no less.

  24. Fun fact, I was let go from my job today. I was always the go to person when co workers needed help and would always work my butt off day in and day out. However at the end of the day in this large company I knew I was just a number and after three years of being under-appreciated it began to show in my attendance. I knew I was just waiting for a push to leave that place. Luckily I had another job in place and in the process of starting my own small business and I will certainly strive to treat my employees with gratitude and respect.

  25. Thanks Simon. It is the frist time that I hear this words about taking care of employees. But I don't agree with you on the fact that is not a measurable thing the trust. You can't. Humanity and honesty and treat a worker like a human being and not a slave, is not measurable. Living according nature is not measurable. You live or not. The important thing is the process, not the result, like you say. If the process is correct, a better service gave to customer is the result. If you respect yourself, you will respect others then like result. Thanks and salutes.

  26. I deal with primarily "internal customers' (employees of the company I work for) so it's not exactly putting employees second but would be putting my team second.

  27. "…that means employes come second inereantly"…What? No. It just means your profit margins is less… That's what it means.

  28. At least three books with the title "The Customer Is Not Always Right" have been published within the last 10 years.  And at least one other with the same title was published 20 years ago.  All have the same theme — and I've been saying it for more than 30 years.  Why have companies and managers been so slow to see this ?

  29. nice info.
    although he shouldn't have given this barista Noah's name. i think barista ended up being fired from the 2nd hotel

  30. Boycott Kroger. They have a "Customer 1st" policy that encourages customer rudeness and imperiousness, and Kroger management treats their labor force like absolute garbage; minimum wage, no training, no backup loyalty or defense against abusive customers, etc.

  31. Where I work, the managers will come by and ask me how I'm doing as well as check on my work. Then, if I'm not going to get done in time, they'll try to get me some help. However, the employees are still generally unhappy. This unhappiness comes from the pressure put on us to put the employee first.

    There's a man by the name of Jim Cornette, who's a relatively well-known figure in pro-wrestling. Somewhat recently, he did an interview in which he stated that, while he does still shop at Walmart, he's quite embarrassed to shop there because he knows that Walmart treats their employees bad.

    On a side note, I've noticed that, as a customer, I tend to have more respect of a store that does not treat me as if I'm always right.

  32. In Australia I find one of the best jobs is a Bartender if the managers/owners are doing their job correctly/legally. At the bar the employee is always right and legally unless reasonable their manager/high ups have to back their call. In and environment where the high-ups get paid the good money to deal with the tough decisions I find the employees really flourish. They care for the business, they want to work, they listen to the high-ups because they have their back a bit of a relation grows and a team truly forms.

  33. I don't complain about poor customer service Unless it was something Major like the cashier refused to give me my change; Most customers are leading these miserable lives and issuing complaints over the dumbest things because they want to make others just as miserable as they are.

  34. me: loves it when i'm able to resolve a customers issue 100%.
    also me: wants to send this to every customer that was every wrong.

  35. Unfortunately his opening statement is untrue. The big box place states clearly in their mission statement, that is posted in most warehouses, that employees come after the members.
    1. Obey the law.
    2. Take care of our members.
    3. Take care of our employees.

    I wonder how Simon Sinek would address this. Monetary compensation and health benefits do little to bridge the gap of feeling needed or as part of a team or being respected by your managers.

  36. I can so relate to this being in the pool business. I have 42 pools I have to have chemically "perfect" and "clear/no algae" I only get paid to test the water and get the water balanced. Yet customers don't do shit to their ONE pool. THAT IS IN THEIR BACKYARD, never clean them, empty baskets, vacuum. Etc. Claim they're too "busy" ugh. Haha

  37. The customer is never right! If that was the case the customer would be the employee and the employee would be the customer

  38. This guy likes to paint a broad brush in every situation. I saw his past video vilifying the millennials. Though I don’t believe the saying customer is always right but every situation has to be evaluated based within the bounds of rationality. I had seen my co workers treating some customers like shit and is quick to judge. That’s not good either.

  39. What a complete pile of bullshit.
    All these companies who put employees before customers results in their employees being arrogant and entitled.
    Their employees don’t apologise to their customers for being late – they don’t apologise to their boss for being late, so why should they treat customers any different?
    Their employees make their customers feel like they’re on the employee’s time and that the customer should be grateful for the time.

    Silicon Valley is where this bullshit employees-before-customers culture came from. I work with tons of these companies and their attitude is fucking horrendous; don’t apologise, think they’re amazing, think they’re right and you’re wrong, act like time taken with customers is a massive waste of their time…

    Simon uses one irrelevant example. Of course, if you tell managers to say, “how are you today?” To the their employees, it will naturally follow on. But this is nothing to do with employees before customers.
    This example is like saying telephone operators with a sign stuck on their phone telling them to smile when they speak is employees-before-customers.

    Utter nonsense. Simon Sinek has never had a career. His advice is worthless.

  40. This is so true. I work in a really great company, the bosses are super kind but the manager are cranky, tempramental as fuck! I have to experience panick attack EVERYDAY bcs of him. Makes me want to quit.

  41. we need to change this myth , i am sick to death with customers been very rude and when you try to even explain to them not to speak to you like that , they say get me a manager

  42. Actually the costumer is always right, coming from a business perspective. I will always rather terminate an associate as long as my costumers are happy. The costumer brings the money and keeps my business floating, on the other hand the employees are an expense. Why not keep that loyal paying costumer and remove the liability from the workplace. Your sales report will thank you later. In my business my costumers go first. THE COSTUMER IS ALWAYS 100% RIGHT.

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