The Modern Knight

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The customer is always right, right?


Nothing could be farther from the truth. Customer service has its place, but if your lawyer, doctor or even your plumber tells you that you are always right, you don’t need them and they should be fired. The old adage falls even shorter of the mark in law enforcement.

A quick survey of the rules of customer service comes up with some universal truths, but always comes back to statements like this. Number one of The Ten Commandments of Great Customer ServiceKnow who is boss. You are in business to service customer needs, and you can only do that if you know what it is your customers want. When you truly listen to your customers, they let you know what they want and how you can provide good service. Never forget that the customer pays our salary and makes your job possible. The Ten Rules of Customer Service includes the much beloved, “The customer is always right” at #5.

In a situation requiring the police, that logic breaks down almost immediately. When a cop arrives it is almost exclusively when the customer is wrong (although, of course, assumed innocent of any crime). A police officer’s first responsibilities have nothing to do with customer service. Physical safety is far and away the highest priority. The safety of the officer and the customer trump anyone’s feelings about how well they have been served. The demeanor that an officer must assume, the command presence that is required to provide officer and public safety, bears no resemblance to what one would expect if “customer service” were the priority. It simply cannot.

It is important, but for a police officer it is not about customer service. It is about treating everyone with respect and with dignity. Having a customer that you might be required to kill changes everything. It is not about creating a feeling, it is about serving with integrity. That raises the bar well above mere “customer service.”

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