“The Customer is Always Right” . . . Right?

“The Customer is Always Right.”  It is a saying that has been around forever so it must have some truth behind it, and it does. Basically, if the customer is not satisfied, it is a pretty good bet that we are not meeting his/her expectations, so it’s then up to us as sellers to rise to that occasion or give up the business. But life and business are not quite that black and white.  What I want to talk about today are situations in which a customer is moving beyond reasonable boundaries, and what we, as salespeople/advisors, need to consider doing about it. 

Probably the most common challenge I have run into in this context is “scope creep,” . . . the situation where the customer has signed up to pay for one thing, but then begins to add on all sorts of additional demands without feeling he should pay for them. Scope creep is best handled head on, as soon as the first extra request is made. It is a matter of conditioning, and if the situation is left to fester or develop, it almost always leads to a “he said/she said” argument that can do tremendous damage to the overall relationship. Most of us don’t relish telling a customer early in a relationship that something extra he is asking for will cost extra money, but that tough moment is going to occur sooner or later, so best to face it right off the bat. Think of situations when you were the buyer . . . you were probably much more inclined to accept extra charges if they were explained to you clearly and without waver early on.

A second situation I see come up a lot is when customer service is compromised by the client not living up to his end of the agreement. Perhaps he is not getting you the information you need to complete the work, or is cancelling meetings, etc. Then, of course, when the schedule is missed, it is your fault. The best way I have seen to preempt such issues is to include a section in the agreement called “client responsibilities.”  This does not have to be a big deal with a bunch of legal jargon . . . just a short list of things the client will need to do to maximize the process. Putting client responsibilities in writing not only causes the client  to pause and take them seriously at launch, but also serves as a common place to refer to later if there are any issues.

It would be nice if the customer was always right, but the real world does not deal in absolutes. A more accurate statement might be, “The customer is often right and we need to listen closely to him, but there are times when he needs help being right, and that is one of our key responsibilities as salespeople/advisors.” 

I don’t think my phrase is likely to replace the old truism, but it might help you navigate in the real world of customer relations.


To share or contribute, see below . . .

cc logos.2 copy