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The Customer is NOT always right

By November 24, 2014Advice, Business

SelfridgeIt may have been Harry Gordon Selfridge, the prominent British retailer who popularised the slogan, “the customer is always right”. In my view though, Mr Selfridge was not entirely right himself. Whilst everyone in business needs to treat the opinions of customers or clients seriously, they are not always right, I know I have met some of them.
A balance between the rightful service expectations of customers, and potential unreasonable demands needs to be struck. There are some customers who will never be satisfied with what we as business owners do for them, so much so that we need to make a decision as to whether we want to keep the customer or move on.

Customers who are a poor fit for our business can create so much noise and distraction that our ability to service the needs of our good customers suffers. In my former life as an accountant, I used to (only half) jokingly refer to that profession as a road to misery, as we spent 80 per cent of our time doing work that we hate, for people we don’t like, who don’t want to pay us for it.
As business owners, one of the great advantages we have is choice. If we are good at what we do, and have a sufficient level of confidence in our abilities, we can choose to do the kind of work we want to do, the people whose needs we want to meet, and can charge appropriately for it. That’s why I’m in business anyhow.

There is also the issue of what I call “preconception”, which is that customer who comes to youAm I right purportedly seeking advice, but in reality only asking you to tell them how right they are. Sometimes they are doing the right thing of course, and there is a place for seeking confirmation of a chosen course of action, but that process is only effective if the customer is prepared to have you offer an alternative.

Those of us who have been in business for a while can usually pick up early whether a customer is going to cause us grief or not. Sometimes we forget that this kind of “radar” is a gift which should not be ignored. We need to recall that we are in charge of who we allow to be our customers not the other way around, take account of whether a potential customer is a good fit for our business and exercise our power of veto. Do it once and you’ll get better at it because this is a learned behaviour.

We also need to be comfortable with the fact that not everyone is going to like us. In client surveys, we have found that all of our clients “like” dealing with us and “like” us as people, and the feeling is mutual. This is a bit of a chicken and egg thing, as only those customers who like you will deal with you in the way you want to be dealt with, those who don’t will become your problems.

It is the customer who values your service and expertise, who wants to deal with you, and who is willing to pay you who is always right, but that’s not all of them. In short, just because they have a pulse doesn’t mean they should be your customer, Some customers are more trouble than they are worth, and distract you from the kind of service you love providing to those who you want to deal with. My advice is to get rid of them, you’ll be glad that you did.

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