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MMD > Archives > April 2001 > 2001.04.11 > 02Prev  Next

The Customer Is Always Right
By John A. Tuttle

Hi All,  With some trepidation, I express the following opinion.
I preface my comments by stating that I do not rebuild instruments
for the purpose of selling them to the public.  As I've said before,
I only work for the general public.

As a technician, tuner, rebuilder, etc., my primary function has always
been to satisfy my customer's desires.  Some people ask for things that
are totally outrageous, and there have been times when I was asked to
do things that might adversely affect my reputation.  So, I packed up
my tools and left.  The point here is, I do draw lines.

On the other hand, I've changed the operating characteristics of
numerous machines to satisfy my customer's desires.  Here, my rule
of thumb has always been "Do No Harm".

What should it matter to me if a customer wants to listen to blaringly
loud music?  Why should I care if they want the music to play so softly
that it lacks all expression?  As long as I can accommodate the customers
without damaging the unit, they are my 'boss'.  And as long as I have
explained the possible ramifications of any change I make, my job is
done.  (It goes without saying that I write things down on the receipt
just in case I'm accused of wrong-doing at a later date.)

My own personal feelings always come second.  Naturally, I make every
effort to educate the customer if I feel he/she is asking for something
that might not be so easy to 'undo' at a later date or cause some
damage down the road, but my professional position has always been that
"the customer is always right" even when they are asking for the
ridiculous.  They pay me to serve them.  I'm not the 'boss'.  The
customer's wish is usually* my command.

Obviously, if the rebuilder/technician is rebuilding an instrument to
sell to the public, it's his/her duty/obligation to insure that the
instrument meets or exceeds the manufacturers specifications.  However,
once that instrument is sold, his 'opinions' about the performance
characteristics are just that: "opinions".  If the customer has an
opinion that differs with the technician, the technician has only two
choices: One, accommodate the customer; Two, ask the customer to find
another technician.

Many years ago, I was sent on a complaint call by a well-known piano
company.  When I arrived, I was asked by the customer to do something
to her instrument that I felt would damage the unit over a period of
time.  I expressed my concern to the customer, but she was adamant, so
I did what she asked.  Some months later I was called by a law firm to
appear as a material witness for the company that sold the woman the

During my 45-minute testimony, I explained everything exactly as it
had occurred, and I ended by saying this: "I am nothing more than a
professional servant when I'm in someone's home.  I leave my personal
feelings at the front door and I do what I'm asked to do (within
reason).  I trust that the court understands both sides of the phrase,
'The customer is always right'."  The case was dismissed!

Here's my point.  While I certainly appreciate how disturbing it
must be to a rebuilder to deal with some people, especially when they
want something that is contrary to the rebuilder's personal and/or
professional beliefs or concepts of what is right, it just isn't a
serviceman's place to argue with the customer.  That's called "Poor
Customer Relations".  Either you give them what they want, or you pack
up and leave.  It's that simple.  If you, as a technician, are so
offended by what the customer wants you to do, then just leave, and
absorb the loss of time under the category of "Professional Pride".

* I've arrived at appointments and walked out five minutes later simply
because I was asked to do something that I just couldn't bring myself
to do, regardless of the amount of money I could have made.  Call it
professional pride.  We all draw the line somewhere!

Here's the bottom line: If you're so concerned about what future
generations of listeners might think about a particular device or
instrument, open a museum.  No serviceman has the right to tell an
owner what they should or should not do with their own instrument.

Did I ever tell the story about the mad wife who took a butcher knife
to her husband's Chickering grand/Ampico because she caught him cheating
on her?  Point: Who am I to judge what other people do or want?  I'm
just a high-priced professional -- nothing more, nothing less.


John A. Tuttle

(Message sent Wed 11 Apr 2001, 21:31:06 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Always, Customer, Is, Right

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