The Customer is NOT Always Right

The Customer Is Not Always Right

You know how everyone tells you that the customer is always right?

Well, they’re wrong.

But that doesn’t mean that you should dismiss what they have to say. In fact, what they are telling you could be critical to the future of your business.

Let me explain.

Always right is an absolute.

I’ve never subscribed to the “your customer is always right” mantra. Your customer might  be right. Your customer could be right. But it’s unlikely that they are always right.

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning
— Bill Gates


This is closer to what I believe. Even when you feel that your customer’s complaints are utterly unjustified you still need to be actively listening, taking notes and reflecting on what has been said.

What they say isn’t necessarily what they mean

What they say: “You are too expensive”

What you hear: “Lower your prices, others are less expensive than you”

What they mean: “I don’t trust that what you have presented to me is worth what you are charging for it.”

So what should you do?

Reflect. Is what they are saying true? Are you too expensive? Expensive compared to what? Note, they didn’t say “I wish that was in my budget” to which you could offer to reduce scope of services to meet their budget. They said “too expensive”. So ask them, what are you comparing that too?”

What they say: “Why would I need that?”

What you hear: “What I am offering isn’t needed by them”

What they mean: “I don’t understand how this will add value to what I do.”

Again, reflect. Do you believe that you can add value to this person with your product or service? If yes, then where is the disconnect between what you have told them and what they have understood. 

What they say: "This isn't what I wanted"

What you hear: "I have failed my customer"

What they mean: "What I understood I would be receiving is not what I have recieved"

There are so many reasons this could have happened but the majority of time either the client has misunderstood what the end result would or could be. Or, you have not delivered on what they have expected. Because sometimes the client is right. 

What should you listen to?

Firstly, listen to the message inside the message. What are they really telling you?

Don’t fill in the blanks with your own insecurities.

Try to meet your customer’s needs by taking note of both what they are saying and what they are not saying.

Most importantly, you should listen to your gut.

If your gut tells you that this is not the right client for your business listen to it, and listen hard. The way someone speaks to you before they become a client is the best indicator you will get of how they will be to work with in the future.

If your gut says no, tell them "thank you and goodbye". You will not regret it.

This is not your Free Pass

To be clear, this is not your excuse to blame your customer. I advocate delighting your customers at all opportunities. Wherever possible you should be going over and above what you promised to deliver (and if you have already over-promised, at a minimum, meet the promise that you made). 

It is more a gentle reminder to keep listening to what is being said, make sure that you are effectively communicating your value and also, make sure you screen your clients carefully. The right client will thank you for it.