The concept of the customer always being right came from the US retail sector in staff training as a state of mind that employees should have when dealing with customers.
By adopting the mindset you ensure that you always have a happy customer. This is fine for selling low cost replaceable retail items, but somehow the concept was adopted in broader areas of business (although sadly not UK utilities and banks).
Over the years many business customers have got into a similar way of thinking. ‘I am the customer, therefore I am right’.
Well sometimes they are and sometimes they're not. The difference between a consumer taking this view and a business customer is that the business customer usually has a lot of power in the relationship. However, they often cross the border from discussion and request to bullying. All talk of ‘ we are looking to work in partnership’ evaporates as they show their real colours, and see you purely as a supplier. Whatever you have already agreed, they now want it cheaper, quicker, and with more guarantees.
This creates a vicious cycle, not least because the people dealing with the issues become de-motivated and disengaged, which results in higher staff turnover - serving to exaspere the original problems. The only real solution is to push back and this can easily be done in a non aggressive way.
You are either good at what you do and can seek out those customers that appreciate that you need to make a profit and want to work together for mutual benefit. Or you can carry on slashing your wrists, taking the flak, losing staff and becoming less profitable as a supplier.
How customers talk to you in business often says a lot about the relationship you will or do have. Every time we have pushed back this year we have ended up with an improved working relationship, a level playing field with mutual respect and better lines of communication which in turn improves the morale of the people involved leading to more engaged employees. Win Win.