The customer is always right...but we get to pick the customer

The customer is always right...but we get to pick the customer

What happens when a company doesn't fit a service provider's model of being gatekeepers to quality?

Lately we’ve been talking a lot about how true transparency can mitigate the headlines that can undermine consumer trust in our industry’s products, and we’ve also been providing many educational tools for those industry members who have just started taking product testing more seriously. Along the way we’ve had some inspiring interactions with companies who are completely committed to learning everything they need to understand to raise the bar on product quality. We’ve also had a couple of interactions that illustrate why, as painful as this year has been for us all in some ways, this renewed focus on testing that's resulted from being under a media and legal microscope will ultimately divest our industry of the small group of manufacturers who create big problems.

There is an old slogan, “the customer is always right,” that dates back to the late 1800s. It’s been said on the "interwebs" that it was triggered to offset consumer concern over an even older slogan, “caveat emptor (let the buyer beware). Further analysis of the “customer is always right” slogan has provided feedback that it is both good and bad. While it attempts to ensure good customer service no matter how persnickety the customer is, it also has the proclivity to allow those same customers to treat your staff in abusive ways. I don’t stand for that and will quickly engage and quell an abusive client, no matter how big or valuable the account is to our little lab.

Well, here’s an alternative to the original: “The customer is always right, BUT we get to pick the customer."

Depending on which side of the adulteration, willful ignorance or unscrupulous fence you sit, a testing lab can be your savior or your darkest enemy. I love what we do at Alkemist Labs because we don’t make the products you give to your loved ones; we help make them better. That feels warm and fuzzy and fulfills a desire I have to do well while doing good. At the same time, we have our share of disappointing customers when "we fail their test samples," or more accurately, when their test samples fail our tests. “How could it fail? We have been using that supplier for years,” is not an uncommon response we get from QC directors all the way to company owners. In some of those cases, they finally woke up, smelled the regulations and began to comply with decade-old cGMPs.

Recently we had a customer whose products were failing our tests tell us we are too strict and need to lighten up our pass or fail criteria, or else they were going to find a "better lab." To that I reminded my team that "the customer is always right BUT we get to pick the customer,” and we don’t want to do business with companies like that. They simply don’t fit our model of being gatekeepers to quality for this beloved industry and to them I say goodbye.

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