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Is the Customer Always King?

I recently enjoyed an article titled “As They Sow, So Shall They Reap:  Customers’ Influence on Customer Satisfaction at the Customer Interface” authored by Ruth M. Stock and Marei Bednarek in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Sciences, October 2013 issue.  The title of this article intrigued me not only because it was catchy, but because I try to read every article I run across that deals with the customer experience.  The premise of the article is that firms are continuously looking for ways to satisfy their customer base, but it is important to remember that customers themselves contribute to their own satisfaction. 

My absolute favorite sentence in the entire article is, “This recognition (that customers can have negative impacts on frontline employees’ customer-oriented attitudes and behaviors through inappropriate behavior) should also be spread throughout the corporate culture and challenge the maxim that the customer is king.”  Maybe this ideal resonated with me because I have had several jobs over the years as a frontline employee.  Despite always keeping customer service at the forefront of my mind, there were situations where the customer was simply not going to pleased. 

I think it’s a good reminder that while of course it is important to ask customers about their experiences and satisfaction, it is also important to remember that the customers are in fact contributing to their own satisfaction.  The authors provide several good managerial implications and recommendations, one being to focus on frontline employee training:  possibly recognizing specific categories of customer types as well as thinking of ‘challenging’ customers as a team challenge.  

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