Why thinking the customer is always right is wrong for your business


October 25, 2016

One of the first business mottos most of us learn is “The customer is always right,” but over the years, I’ve concluded that this isn’t necessarily the case. I’ve also come to strongly believe that when a client is wrong, sometimes the best thing you can do – both for your client and your business – is say so. To show you what I mean, I’d like to share a couple of stories from my own experience at MyITpros.

Case No. 1: Who comes first – your client or your employee?

There are going to be times when you end up with a conflict between a client and an employee. Maybe the client wants you to fire the employee, or the employee doesn’t want to work with the client anymore.

We recently had the latter experience at MyITpros. A client and the technician assigned to his account went through a period of pretty heated conflict, and when the dust settled, the technician no longer wanted to work with the client. However, the client was averse to starting over with a new person who wasn’t familiar with his business, so he all but ordered us to keep the technician on his account.

If you believe the customer is always right, there’s only one thing to do in a situation like this: follow the client’s wishes. But think about the consequences. You may give the customer the satisfaction of feeling right, but you’ll also be prolonging a business relationship with an employee who doesn’t want to take part in it anymore – someone who’s not going to be able to give their all for that client. Moreover, the employee’s overall morale and job satisfaction may suffer to the point that he or she is no longer as valuable an asset to the organization.

I thought about these things and decided to take the technician off the account against the client’s wishes. The client wasn’t happy, but I believe it was the right thing to do as he would ultimately be better served by someone else in our organization. Also, the technician had been with us for a long time and was doing an outstanding job on other accounts, so I believed it would be a mistake to risk losing him.

A different technician now works with that client, and they’re doing fine together. Meanwhile, we’ve earned the long-term loyalty of a valued employee who’s going to continue to do great work serving other clients in years to come. That’s the kind of positive result you can get when you’re willing to say your client is wrong and take action accordingly.

Case No. 2: You know your business; your customer doesn’t

We acquired a new client recently, and at our first meeting, he asked us to finish a specific project by the following week. It wasn’t an emergency request by any means, but we could have chosen to say yes anyway. In fact, that’s what you should do if you believe the client is always right. This was a large project, though, and agreeing to the deadline would have wreaked havoc on our existing project calendar. Additionally, it would have prevented us from responding to any emergencies that cropped up with other clients, and forced us to compromise our normal standards by rushing the new work.

So, we said no, and needless to say, the client wasn’t exactly thrilled. However, I believe we did what was best for everyone, which is a call we have to make fairly often.

Sometimes a new client wants to get started on something immediately, or an existing client responds to a proposal that’s been on the table for weeks and wants it done right away. In these types of cases, we take time to explain exactly how our business processes work and why we have them in place. For example, working with a project calendar ensures that we’re able to allocate resources efficiently, to the benefit of all clients. As a matter of policy, we won’t risk missing another client’s delivery date when work is already in progress, nor will we overwork an employee who’s already stretched thin. The bottom line is that when we say no, it’s because we care – about our clients and our employees alike.

In my experience, once a client understands why you’re pushing back, the benefit of accepting your decision will become clearer. Don’t get me wrong; I always look forward to saying “Yes, you’re right” to clients – but I also know the value of saying “No, you’re wrong.” I hope the examples I’ve shared here help with your own decision-making, and as always, I hope you’ll get in touch if we can assist in this area.

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