The customer conundrum

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27 October 2016 | 0

Billy MacInnesEveryone reading this article is a customer. We all are. We’re all buying something from someone. But many of you are also likely to be selling things, such as products or services.

As customers, we’re likely to subscribe to the well-worn adage that we’re always right. And a lot of the time, we probably are.

But for those of you who sell stuff, it’s not as clear-cut as that. ‘The customer is always right’ may have become a widely accepted truism, but that doesn’t make it true. As with so many definitive statements, it’s not definitive at all.

A recent UK survey of more than 750 respondents by virtual assistant specialist ava found that 61% did not believe the customer was always right at all. And there are sound reasons for their scepticism.

For a start, there are those people who are always right even when they’re not. Trying to placate and appease them can be more trouble than it’s worth. In some instances, it might be better to let them take their business somewhere else, preferably a rival. Then there’s the amount of time and energy it takes to try and make an unhappy customer happy again. There are times, especially for smaller businesses, when the price of a customer’s happiness is just too much.

Benjamin Dyers, CEO of Powered Now, told ava: “If you run a small business then unreasonable customers are costly. The time needed to deal with an unreasonable customer is a cost most of us simply cannot contain – they are a distraction,” he argued. “It’s a tricky balance to get right, as there can never be an excuse for being rude to customers.”

Sometimes, the customer can be right and wrong. Chris Simpson, consultant with Business Doctors, put it succinctly when he told ava: “The customer is definitely not always right. In fact, they may be the wrong customer for the entire business. A lot of the time when we’re having conversations about whether the customer should be allowed to call the shots, it turns out the customer is entirely wrong for the business.” So, even if the customer is right, they can still be wrong for you.

The other point made by ava is that always siding with the customer can have a bad effect on staff morale. If the business and the managers always agree with customers, they can give the impression their employees aren’t valued. Employees who don’t feel valued are very likely to give an inferior customer service than those who are happy and feel appreciated by the company they work with.

This isn’t particularly revolutionary. After all, as customers, if we feel our custom is appreciated by the company providing us with a service or product, we’re likely to be much happier customers.

Trying to keep everybody happy, now that’s a bit more difficult. To quote another old adage, “you can’t please all the people all the time”. And there may well be times when you really shouldn’t want to. But if you can keep everyone happy most of the time, you’re probably on the right track.

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