Is The Customer Always Right?

There is a business idea that says there are two rules.  1) The customer is always right, and 2) when the customer is wrong  refer to rule 1.  Cute, and as a guiding principle, not a bad place to start.

The world promptly teaches us the customer is nearly always wrong in respect to complex goods and services. There are two possible courses of action that follow.

The more common is the idea that the customer is right and manage the sales process so that they can cling to their erroneous beliefs and still buy the product.  That is short term thinking and has risks.  The most serious of these is that the product may turn out not to be durable nor as expectedexpected.  Poor fit in the beginning does not lead to long term satisfaction.

The less common approach is to try to help the customer expand their awareness of the product and how it fits into their lives.  This approach matters only when the product is complicated and its usefulness matters or is expensive to replace.  Fire insurance, healthcare and prescription drugs, car repairs, life and disability insurance, locked in investments, and more.  

It really does not matter much if I buy a pizza with anchovies, or a pair of red socks, and find I don’t like them.

Educating customers is a trying process.  They,  most of the time, do not know they are misguided.  They resent being talked down to or patted on the head with the idea you will thank me later.  On the other hand, they all prefer to know more so they can more precisely do things that are efficient and useful.

We must start, not where we are, but with where they are.  Emphasize that what they believe to be true is fine and it may well have been true at one time.  Try to discover how they came to hold their belief.  Knowing how they came to hold it is important information.  It could be learned from a bad experience or it could be received knowledge from a bartender.  Point out how things have changed, all the while connecting to what they already believe.  Eventually the connection can be made to the more complete, more modern, more accurate world that defines the product you wish to arrange for them.  No good customer resents learning more.

People make a mistake to treat error as if it is right.  Proper plans and product require efficiency and efficiency relies on truth.  Consider a better way to see the old rules of business.

The customer is not always right, but they are always the customer and customers deserve the best you have to offer.  Part of your best offering is to help them to be right more often.  They are most often right when they know what the product means for them.

Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario.  In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.

Please be in touch if I can help you.  866-285-7772

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