June – Customers May Not Always Be Right, But It’s Our Job To Help Them Get There!

By Tony Shepley,

Let’s never forget that customers are our only reason for being able to succeed and stay in business. My dentist has a sign on his wall that says, “Ignore your teeth, they’ll go away”.  Doesn’t that work for customers too?

Our customers are always our customer, not just on certain days of the week or when it suits us to consider them so. They fuel our business and nothing is more efficient than a customer who comes back for more: a second , a third or hopefully, many more times. You get to skip the introduction. We must never forget what it costs us to attract and get to know our customers in the first place because it’s really the hardest part of the process. The luxury (and frankly the pleasure) of repeat business is that we already have a relationship in place.

Our customers are just as human as we are and don’t think for a minute that you or I haven’t been someone else’s “customer from hell” at some point. The next time you find yourself feeling frustrated and feeling like the victim of your customer, stop, take a deep breath, and remember, you’re getting paid for what you do . . . and they’re doing the paying. When our customers are wrong, it’s our job to help make them right. Go ahead be the butler, and by that I mean be professional, level-headed, anticipate rather than react, and remember that the world does revolve around them, because they’re paying the bills.

Remember the basics of a challenging customer:

  • They may have nodded “yes” because they couldn’t admit or were embarrassed they didn’t understand the question you asked, and instead of saying “I don’t understand”, they shied away from any confrontation by nodding “yes” instead of asking for an explanation.
  • They could very well be overloaded with information or the pressure of decision making and scared of making a mistake.
  • There could be underlying emotional, situational, or physical factors affecting their behavior that you aren’t aware of. If they’re being emotional and you’re responding logically, the connection likely won’t get through. It is up to us to get to their level.

What may be most important is that because your customer can be wrong, their need of what we bring to the process is just that much more important. Don’t bait and wait . . . anticipate. What we prevent is so much more important than what we save, because saving is at least twice as expensive as preventing. Sometimes I have had customers thank us for things that we just do naturally. I am surprised that they’re surprised. I think, after all, that the secret to this process is to learn how to enjoy exceeding expectations and how to perform at a higher level. When we do, we’ll never be bored, and people will want more of us.

The next time you see a business with signs up saying “You want it when?” or “If it weren’t for these customers I could get my job done”, instead of ridiculing them, think how often small parts of our own businesses may unknowingly be sending the same message. For example, when our unconscious defenses come out instead of just thinking of an overt, straight-arm push to the chest.

Most importantly, when our customers—either internal or external—are wrong, it’s our job to help make them right, but in a manner that doesn’t blame or embarrass. After all, if we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will!


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