Your customer is NOT always right

Here is another BizTip for entrepreneurs who want to learn from what their customers have to say, but who have some customers who keep demanding more attention than the value of doing business with them:  “Your customer is NOT always right”.

Christoff Oosthuysen is the resident business coach on Randall Abrahams’ weekly radio show, Point of View. Here is another of the weekly BizTips…

I read the other day that the founder of Selfridge’s in London coined the phrase “The customer is always right” in the early 1900s mainly to convince customers that they will get good service. And till today managers and entrepreneurs alike are repeating this phrase as a way of motivating their teams to give customers good service.

However, treating all customers as if they are always right might be disastrous for your business! Why do I say this? Well let’s look at just two important reasons.

First define yourself, then define your customers

Firstly, if you blindly follow your customers, you will stop developing new ways of doing things which your customers do not know are possible yet. You’ll miss many opportunities opening up for your business.

It is Henry Ford who famously said: “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse”. If he’s approach was that the customer is always right, he would have managed breeding stables, and some-one else would have revolutionised the transport industry by mass manufacturing cars.

The same applies to your business. You need to step out of your business every now-and-then and ask yourself: “What opportunities are there which others are not seeing? What can I add or change or improve that will make what I do in my business unique?”

Yes, it is important what customers want, but what is more important is what you can offer in a way that no-one else can. You must start by defining yourself and what you can do or offer in ways no-one else can. Only when you defined yourself, you move on to defining your market. You determine your niche – no, your micro-niche – by focussing on what you can offer better than any-one else; then you define your audience based on who’ll be attracted to what you offer.

ather focus on the customers you’re meant to serve

The second reason for not accepting that your customers are always right is that it prevents you from focussing on those customers you’re meant to serve. There are some people who are not your ideal customers and you should not be listening to them.

These are the customers who demand more attention than the value they bring to your business. Their contribution to your success is miniscule, but they demand the attention of the most important customer. They distract you from focussing on your ideal customers and building lasting relationships with the people you’re meant to serve.

You would be well served by finding ways to fire such customers from your business.

Listen to the customers you’re meant to serve

That then brings me to the refined argument, which is that you SHOULD in fact be listening to the customers you’re MEANT TO SERVE.

As long as you know that SOME of your existing customers are NOT always right, you can learn a great deal from them by using cost-effective ways of listening to them. Think for instance of doing the following in your business:

  • Train your staff to listen and record what they hear.
  • Use comment cards or in-store vote-pads.
  • Run a competition with an important question included.
  • Ask customers randomly and record what they say.
  • Analyse trends from your sales records.

Use this information to improve your business, but get rid of the idea that every customer is King!

Remember, the success of your business depends on YOU.  Listen to the customers you’re meant to serve, but note, every customer is NOT always right.

If this tip helps you, get another free BizTip today.
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