The Customer Is Always Right

woman holding magnetic card
Type: Vocabulary
Originally published on October 3, 2020 and last updated on July 15, 2023

The saying “the customer is always right” is an excellent conversation topic for English learners as it allows them to explore various aspects of customer service, business etiquette and interpersonal communication. Engaging in discussions about this topic can enhance their vocabulary related to customer service, such as phrases for handling complaints or providing excellent service.

Moreover, debating the merits and drawbacks of this concept can improve their critical thinking and persuasive skills while broadening their understanding of cultural differences in customer service expectations. This topic offers a practical and relevant context for English learners to develop their language proficiency in real-world scenarios.

Go through the vocabulary below with your students and ask them to try and use this vocabaulry where possible when discussing the different conversation questions.

The Customer Is Always Right

The phrase “The Customer Is Always Right” has become a cornerstone of customer service philosophy. It suggests that businesses should prioritise meeting customer needs and desires above all else. Originating in the early 20th century, the concept embodies the belief that customers hold the key to a company’s success. By adopting this principle, organisations aim to build trust, loyalty and satisfaction among their clientele.

However, while it emphasises customer satisfaction, some argue that blind adherence to this idea can lead to unreasonable demands and undermine employee morale. Balancing customer-centricity with practicality remains an ongoing challenge in modern business practices.

Useful Vocabulary

Try and use the following vocabulary when answering the question. Click to look up the definition in the dictionary

  • saying (noun)
  • sector (noun)
  • apply (verb)
  • situation (noun)
  • more harm than good (idiom)
  • validity (noun)
  • useful (adjective)

Conversation Questions

My Image
  • What do you think the saying “the customer is always right” means?
  • Do you agree with the saying?
  • Can you think of any situations where following this saying would be useful?
  • Can you think of any situations where following this saying would actually be bad for business?
  • Have you ever had an experience where you felt the customer was not right?
  • In your culture, what are the expectations of customer service?
  • Can you think of any potential drawbacks or challenges that may arise from following this concept too strictly?
  • Is it fair to expect employees to always remain polite and accommodating, even in the face of disrespectful or abusive customers?
  • What are some strategies businesses can use to ensure customer satisfaction while also considering the well-being and rights of their employees?
  • Should companies establish clear boundaries and guidelines for customer behaviour to prevent customers from taking advantage of the "The Customer Is Always Right" principle?
This conversation topic was prepared by Gregory

Gregory is a qualified TEFL teacher who has been teaching English as a Foreign Language (ESL) for over a decade. He has taught in-person classes in Spain and to English learners around the world online.