Is The Customer Always Right?

June 18, 2012

Couple of days back, I was in a restaurant having my breakfast, a divine combination of Idly and Sambar, Bangalore’s most popular morning meal.

While I was about to finish eating, I heard some loud noises. They were coming from the table behind me. I turned back and saw an angry customer shouting at his waiter. ‘You are insulting me, call your manager!’

‘Sir, what did I do wrong?’

‘I won’t talk to you, Where is your manager?’

After few seconds, the restaurant manager came running, and he politely asked the customer, ‘Sir, can I help you?’

‘This fellow is serving me food in left hand, don’t you guys have any manners?’

It may sound funny to you, but in India this is a perfectly logical argument. Because, majority of Indians believe that using right hand is THE natural thing, and hence, doing anything in left hand is considered a bad manners, even an insult.

As a result of this, parents get very nervous if their child starts eating, or writing in left hand. They try all possible tricks to convert him or her to a right hander, many times with disastrous results.

So, I was not surprised at this customer getting angry about a guy serving food in Left hand. In fact, I was surprised how this waiter escaped from such an issue all these days.

Of course, I knew very well that scientifically / medically there is nothing wrong in a person using left hand for doing daily chores. The restaurant manager also tried to explain this to the angry customer.

But this customer was not in a mood to listen to that, he was furious and kept repeating that the waiter insulted him by serving food using a ‘wrong’ hand.

In this situation, who is right?

The waiter is a natural left hander, hence he served food with his ‘usual’ hand. After all, food is just food, irrespective of the way it is served
The customer has a sentiment that food should always be served with the ‘right’ hand, He doesn’t care about the science and all, According to him, anything served in left hand is an insult
Technically speaking, there is nothing wrong with the waiter. It is the customer who is not understanding the facts and making a scene. In a perfect world, he will be thrown out of the restaurant, he can go to court, but can’t win. (In fact, the waiter may sue him for ill treating him!)

But then, he is a ‘customer’, who is always right. Manager has a commitment to keep him happy, even if he is thinking illogically.

Hence, the manager apologized to the customer for the ‘insult’, and asked someone else to serve him. Problem solved.

Now, this is not the end of the story. Tomorrow some other customer may raise the same issue when this left handed waiter serves food to him / her. So, a permanent solution would be moving this person to a different role (Like order taking, bill preparation etc.,) which doesn’t involve serving food to customers.

Of course, the ideal solution would be to educate all customers that ‘left is also right’, but that will take few hundred years at least!

Naga Chokkanathan,

Senior Director, CRMIT

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