The Simplicity of Being Outstanding

Lie: The customer is always right.

Truth: The customer is always the customer.


In Outstanding! we included a chapter titled, Never Forget Who Pays the Bills. The story below is a perfect picture of that fundamental yet powerful—and sometimes still forgotten—principle.

From Matthew, in Dublin, Ohio …

I scheduled an eye appointment with Sears Optical via their online appointment tool for 1:00 pm Saturday. At least, I thought I had. 

Saturday arrived and I was looking forward to getting all of my errands done in the morning with my last stop being the eye doc at 1pm. And then, home for a relaxing afternoon of watching a whole lot of college football!

When I arrived at Sears at 12:55pm, however, I learned that I had done something wrong with the online scheduling process and my appointment was actually for 2pm not 1pm.

The receptionist, Sarah, told me that my favorite eye doc—Dr. Stephen Averitt—had just left for lunch. Probably looking none-too-happy and muttering something about wanting to get home to watch football, I told her I’d be back in an hour.

But before I could turn around to leave, Sarah said she’d call Dr. Averitt to have him come right back so I could be on my way!

I, of course, protested (albeit weakly) saying that wasn’t necessary—but she wouldn’t hear of it. She reached him as he was about to grab lunch in the mall food court and, after they chatted briefly, said he’d be back in five minutes. 

I was stunned that Dr. Averitt would return to keep me on schedule even though it was completely my fault. 

Well, five minutes later, Dr. Averitt and I were in his exam room and, as always, he displayed his normal cheery and pleasant attitude. Not in the least did he seem annoyed or aggravated while he performed his usual thorough exam of my eyes.

John, it isn’t often you come across situations like these. It truly meant a lot to me to experience this type of selfless dedication to the customer. Together, Sarah and the doc provided me excellent service!

I will definitely continue my relationship with Dr. Averitt wherever he is, while always recommending him to anyone looking for an eye doctor.

And, folks, there you have it … being outstanding is just that simple.

Question: In your organization, does every person remember to never forget who pays the bills?

Wait! Maybe this is a better question to pose:

Does everyone in our organization know that our all-too-human and not-always-right customers pay our bills?!?

If not, I’d say some teaching, training, coaching, and learning just might be in order. Begin today! It’s never too soon to be outstanding.

Comments welcome!

Enjoy a video of QBQ! clients discussing “Personal Accountability & the QBQ!” training.
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8 Responses

  1. This statement could not have come at a better time. I had just recieved a complaint email from a customer and the complaint seemed far fetched but after reading “rememebr who pays the bills” I decidied to change my initial thoughts to positive and when I did this, the outcome was outstanding and went in a postive direction than the way I saw it originally play out in my head. Thanks John, your timing was so perfect I think it was meant for me!!.

  2. John, not lost in the story is the customer’s humility and integrity to the vendor. The customer owned the mistake and was willing to accept the consequences and I’ll bet that was attractive to the receptionist. When we lead with integrity others who possess it will often respond in kind. I wonder what this story would have looked like if instead he went in with an attitude of entitlement or blame? When we live a QBQ life we are apt to attract others who live that way.

  3. When I was providing customer service training to my staff I never preached “the customer is always right.” As it implies the employee is always wrong. Instead I taught them that the customer has the right to be satisfied. It accomplishes the service level while allowing the employee to maintain a sense of dignity. Plus we all know the customer isn’t always right but does have the right to be satisfied with the transaction.

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