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Sometimes the Customer Isn't Always Right

by Karen Stephens
July/August 2004
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Article Link: http://www.childcareexchange.com/article/sometimes-the-customer-isnt-always-right/5015868/

Today, most children participate in a program designed and operated by early childhood professionals. Along with parents, the program staff give children love, support, and daily guidance. It’s an intensely personal and individualized service, even within a group setting.

Relationships become so close in early childhood programs that many parents describe early childhood staff as their children’s “extended family.” It’s one of the highest compliments providers receive.

And yet, no matter how genuine attachments are, there still remains the fact that we provide what is called a “human service” and parents are, in fact, our paying customers. Whether our fee comes directly from parents, corporations, or government subsidizes, we still offer a service with a price tag.

When money is exchanged in the US, the typical rule of thumb for business culture is “The Customer is Always Right.” Managers tell service staff that keeping paying customers satisfied reigns supreme. It’s their attempt to survive in a service that competes for an often fickle consumer.

I’ve been a manager of an early care and education program for almost 24 years. And hearing “The Customer is Always Right” still sends shivers up my spine. More often than I’d like, I’ve served parents who ...

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