The customer is not always right
I remember hearing this mantra when I was a young lad working in the City of London in the 1980s. In fact it’s still trotted out now, even by well respected folks such as Seth Godin. Shame it’s wrong. Badly.
Customers are human so therefore capable of making mistakes and illogical reasoning.
We should all be treating customers with respect and we certainly should listen to them but we need to do so with an eye on the bigger picture. Famously quoted, Henry Ford supposedly said something like, “If I listened to my customers, I’d have built a faster horse.” Quoting Hank is usually used as a club to bludgeon a discussion about doing customer research or researching and falls deep in the zone of HiPPOs which, anyone who knows us, is our pet hate.
Customers should be used in a feedback loop that continually circles for mutual benefit. We once had a sales guy working here, quite senior, and his answer to sales was to simply provide exactly what the customer wanted … or more accurately, exactly what the customer told us he or she wanted. Sounded great on the surface but frequently we shipped half-assed products, late, to customers with changing minds. Surprisingly, this approach didn’t generate great sales figures. Not surprisingly, we created a group of unhappy customers that didn’t stay with us and didn’t really get the best from us. We don’t do that anymore and we’re much richer for the experience.
The lessons? Listen, listen really hard and get to the bottom of what customers really want, not what they say they want. Then spend the right amount of time kicking around solutions, do this stage properly and you’ve got a good chance of over-delivering. The relationships you have will also be smoother, mutualised and long-term.