The customer is not always right

by todaystrainingblog

Remember the old cliche that hung in offices everywhere for years:

Rule #1 The customer is always right.

Rule #2 If the customer is ever wrong, read rule #1

Well I’m here to tell you that in most instances the customer is right. But it’s never absolute. And being scared to lose an account because you refused to do something they wanted is never an excuse to fall down and kiss their toes. Some clients want you to do that, because they know their account is important, but it’s not worth it.

In contract security many compromises are made because the client wants this or that. In most cases it really is no big deal to grant their request and change the contract, just a tad, to keep them happy, as long as it is added via an addendum. However keep in mind, that in some circumstances, it can be, and is, illegal to accede to their request.

I’ve been the subject of one of these and it was attempted to be forced to do one myself. And I’ve witnessed it more than a few times. And in practically every case the client, not on record, made it clear what the reason was and then changed it to make it appear legal before it was placed in their file.

In my case I saw the personnel file that had a statement in it from the client that wanted me removed as Facility Supervisor for a female because she would be more aesthetically pleasing to visitors at the front gate. After I confronted the District Manager it was removed and was replaced with a memo stating ’insufficient job performance’ from the Branch Manager, not the client. To their credit, they had refused.

Another instance I was the Operations Supervisor for Allied Security and was told by the client that I would remove an officer because he was a ‘mellow yellow’ with red hair. When I refused for that reason alone, the client talked to the Branch Manager. The officer was then removed from the site because he was ‘bothering female employees & making them uncomfortable’. He protested and then promptly quit.

This account was a very large one for the company, accounting for approx. ¾ of our billable weekly hours. It had taken months of negotiation to take over the account from another national security company and the corporate office was involved. The Branch Manager didn’t want to lose the account nor upset corporate. He was after all, a corporate man.

While working, thank goodness briefly, for ABM Security, in Kansas City I was told to falsify records to assist the payroll people. I also did this for Allied, with the same account as above, by ‘ghosting’ employees. In both instances I complained to a higher authority and was basically told to shut up and do your job and we’ll do ours. In one case, the complaint was conveniently lost by the Regional VP.

From Wells Fargo, to Allied, Universal Protective (now defunct), ABM Security, & Uni-Guard. they have all did it. In each case I attempted to rescue my integrity and honor by not complying because I knew it was breaking the law, and both morals & ethics. Was I told the real reason behind all of the client requests? Probably not, especially after stating my objections a couple of times.

But like many people the opening phrase was pounded into my head when I entered the workforce looking for a career 35 years ago. At that time, it was in sales. After my start in security it was never spoken out loud, but the overall sense was not to ‘piss off the client and cause us to lose the account’.

And because in St. Joseph & Kansas City MO. The billing rates were so low and the competition so keen for accounts… The billing rates, even in 2003, in St. Joseph were only around $9-$12 per hour. That shows you how competitive it was because we got less than janitorial services, which is not atypical.

But we have to, as security professionals especially in the contract field have to restrain from turning a ‘blind eye ‘and smirk when a client wants someone removed or some other service. If we know it’s illegal and against local, state, & federal law we need to say no.

There are many cases where I have said directly to the client, that I wouldn’t do something for them. It wasn’t that it was necessarily illegal, unethical, or immoral but I was uncomfortable in performing what they wanted done. I told my manager and let them handle it, if they wanted to.

And since going blind I continue to tell people who need something from me no. Because, if you don’t remember, everyone is a customer of yours. From your company, manager, employee, client, or whoever. They are all customers and therefore sometimes they are not always right and need to be told no.


Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on security issues, specifically workplace violence. He’s spent 32 years in the security field. Contact him at 480-251-5197 or Visit his Facebook page, One is too Many. Here you will read about other items related to security & WPV issues. Or be a twitter follower at @robertsollars2.

I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear