Service industry and what it means to be customer centric

by Jessie Liew


I will start this article with an old but common statement – “Customer is always right”. This is especially widely promoted in the Service industry. Half correct to the marketing statement, because we are all customers at times, and we know we are not always right, although we might insist. In extreme instances, this old statement may be a marketing gimmick, a gimmick that gives “blanket” rights to all things entitled by a customer, regardless of circumstances.

Take a step back now. The emergence of this statement goes back to meeting the customers’ needs: when a customer stated his/her needs, in a reasonable condition and environment, the business should provide as per requested. When the mutual agreement has reached and yet the needs are not met, then “Customer is always right” will take precedence. This is the fundamental ground of the statement, which unfortunately, is massively distorted and misinterpreted. The malpractice is of course, tainted by some unruly businesses and/or customers that left everyone distaste for most, if not all, business interactions. In the latest news release, a US national was almost incarcerated, after allegedly accusing a Thailand resort of “modern day slavery” (source news: The guest was demanding and acting unreasonably, beyond what the resort could have responded to or handled. Hence, the dispute and retaliation from the resort.

So, customer is NOT always right. And what does that make of the Service industry now?

Needs prioritization and mutual respect are key to the question. With the improved literacy rate and increasingly more educated public in the market, time has changed. Instead of “Customer is always right”, we have seamlessly evolved to “Customer is priority”. Respectful is an attitude, Prioritization is an act. Having customer’s needs and priority in mind, business will be able to act more appropriately and relevant. Having those in mind, the Omotenashi to serve wholeheartedly, will be translated into the delivery of service. 

Customer satisfaction comes from the experience of “needs being prioritized and taken care of”. Especially true in Hospitality industry. Simply, for example, the warmth of getting a cool and refreshing welcome drink at the grand lobby of a resort, after a few gruesome and long transits of flight. How satisfactory for the guests’, to have their circumstances considered and needs taken care of, even without being spoken of or requested to. Customers’ needs prioritization makes a lasting impact; it is monumental.

My previous article also shared, that Hospitality is a mindset and attitude. Being respectful and act with integrity – these two values are not just an integral part of the service industry, I would go as far as part of the human civilization, really. Often times we have seen on news, whether or not the customer is right, the spat between customers and businesses typically turns unsightly. Ruling out the unreasonable scenarios, the rest may owe it to poor communication, unrefined or vulgarity, in some extreme cases. Communication is a form of art, being wise and rise, being mindful and respectful. To be respectful while requesting colleague in delivering a committed service to guests; to be polite in turning down requests from guests that are impossible; to be courteous to inform guests when requests are unfulfilled, not forgetting to provide alternatives.

These are basic human decency between individuals in all streams. In a business environment, however, we must not forget that education is how we upgrade ourselves, from basic to professionals. The ability to communicate with professionalism does not transform magically, but must begin with academics, and further refined by experiences and circumstances.

None of this are understood completely, without a complete education structured mentally. None of this matter, if we do not understand what is customers’ needs and how to be respectful in exchange or communication. 


Now, these are the fundamentals of the customer centric Service industry, a business which builds around customers and their needs.

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