Wait… don’t you mean that the customer is always right?
As the old saying goes, we are all to believe that no matter what, we should be bending over backwards for the customer. They are always right, whatever they say goes… well that isn’t always the case.
While I do agree we should always aim to delight our customers, to create an amazing experience for them and keep them happy, that is not the same thing as them being right.
You know your business better than they do. You (should) have done appropriate market research when starting your business to understand your buyers wants and needs, their buying habits, competitors and size of the overall market… so you have the expertise.
But, if you start to change direction every time a new customer comes to you wanting something different, then you aren’t staying true to yourself, and your business may start to wobble on its foundations.
Who comes first?
I love this quote from Sir Richard Branson:
“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
By focussing internally first, getting your processes, culture & offering slick and refined, that will naturally translate outwards. This idea links back to the value of values, where you need your business to live and breathe what you believe. Having employees that are excited and energised to work for your will naturally pass on to the customer.
But if you start to put the customer above your employees (as a standard practice) they you begin to alienate your staff, and the result can be a poor customer experience.
When to push back
In a professional services environment, it is perhaps easier to push back on a client’s demands than it would be with a product. The ability to take a request and shape it in a way that will actually meet their overall objective, I believe, is far more powerful than simply doing what they ask. (Of course, there are occasions where the two are aligned)
Ask yourself, ‘why did they come to me in the first place’. If the answer is for you to help them grow, to challenge them and to deliver a result that will change their business, then you can’t simply just do what you are told, you need to add in that something extra that sets you apart, your USP.
I’ve written before about projects that I’ve lost because we didn’t align on what they wanted vs needed. Sure, we could have won a nice piece of work, but we wouldn’t have been able to hold our head high at the end and know we made a difference to their business. It would have been a facelift at best, but not enough substance to make real change.
Stay in control
Managing customers in a way that provides the best outcome for them is the key. Being a doer will only get you so far, that is why it is so important to forget about the ‘customer always being right’ idea, and think about how to best satisfy the customer’s needs.
Sometimes you will need to compromise, but this shouldn’t be your default position.
Sometimes you will need to bite your tongue and not say what you are thinking.
But you should always maintain a healthy working relationship, while being in control of the situation. They came to you for a reason, be sure to live up to that.
The customer may not always be wrong, but just remember, they aren’t always right either.