A Service Provider’s Ethical Dilemma


An Ethical Dilemma

“Never say no when a client asks for something, even if it is the moon. You can always try, and anyhow there is plenty of time afterward to explain that it was not possible.” – Cesar Ritz, Hotelier

Food for thought… For me this statement creates an ethical dilemma. And perhaps it should in your mind too.

Cesar Ritz was an eminent hotelier, who probably needs no introduction to the people who are in the hospitality industry. He was a legend, and was often referred to as the “king of hoteliers, and hotelier to kings.” Eminent as he may have been, I have a bit of a problem with what he advocates.

People in the service industry are invariably taught never to argue with a customer, the maxim being “Customer is always right.” However, every service provider also knows that this is not always the case. There are demanding customers, and then there are impossible customers. Whilst saying no would tantamount to a something unforgivable in customer service, one also knows that saying yes could also spell more trouble. Worse still, one might set a dangerous precedent.

And then there is the ethical dilemma. Would it be RIGHT to promise “the moon”, or the impossible, knowing fully well that it would not happen, and then risk upsetting the client even more ? Or would it be more prudent to be up-front about it and say no, rather than lie about it ? In my view, promising the moon, or the impossible, may temporarily placate a client and save the situation. For the time being. However, when the promised moon does not get delivered, no amount of explanations would suffice. We also need to remember that people don’t buy excuses.

What’s your take on this ?

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  1. Dr.Nazre Ather S.G.

    In my opinion

    Always be precise,honest,to the point.
    Never over commit or cross the boundaries of ethico-moral codes just for a mere Sales deals favorable closure.
    Most of the time one TRUTHFULL “NO” opens the doors of millions YES from a real life time customer.
    A deal based on cheating,fraud,over commitment is not a deal.

  2. It is a dilemma indeed! Saying ‘no’ is often perceived as a weakness. But I stand by my motto of saying no, and offending someone, rather than promise the moon, not deliver, upset a client, and ruin my peace of mind all at the same time!

  3. Thank you, Dr Syed Ghilam Nazre Ather & Kasturika… I personally subscribe to the same views. A straightforward “no” to something unreasonable or impossible is a far better option than making a false promise.

  4. Dharini Raghupathy

    While I do believe in setting expectations, the important thing is in how you say it.
    An outright ‘NO’ is not an ok for me.
    At a time when there is stiff competition, you want to make your customer feel valued.
    You want to let him know that you are willing to walk that extra mile and go above and beyond in making it a deal that will be a win win for both parties.

  5. Thanks, Dharini, for sharing your viewpoint. But my argument here really is about making a false promise. Should a service provider commit ANYTHING to please the customer ? Would the customer feel valued later when he is told that it is not possible, after first having heard a yes from the service provider ? I know there really is no straight-forward answer to this dilemma, but my view still remains the same – it is better to decline politely rather than making a wrong commitment.

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