Is the customer always right? When would you protect your frontline employees? 

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The customer is not always right.  However, there are many times when a manager will have to support the customer even though the frontline worker has not done anything wrong.  In such cases, the manager will have to do so with great tact to avoid demoralizing the worker.

Firms cannot possibly adopt a policy in which the customer is always right.  For example, it is unlikely that a firm would ever want to accommodate a customer who tries to return an item that they have clearly damaged.  No matter how much the customer wishes to return the item, the store will not want to comply.  In such cases, the customer is not right.

However, there will be many cases in which the management will want to do favors for customers.  In such cases, the management may violate the official rules of the firm.  In doing so, managers will have to overrule frontline staff who have been telling the customer that what they are asking for is not possible.  In such cases, management should protect frontline staff by publicly and privately supporting them.  The manager, when called, should emphasize that the employee has made the right decision based on store policy.  Managers should then tell customers that they will use their discretion to waive the rules in this particular case.  The manager should privately explain to the frontline staff that the staff person made the right decision.  In doing this, the manager will accommodate the customer without alienating staff.

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