Is the Customer Always Right? 3 Quick Answers


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Well, no. Of course not. But how do you tell them that they’re wrong and still keep the relationship intact? Here are a few scenarios to examine:

1. The customer wants something that just simply is not attainable.

I’ve seen this more than once. And many times its a scenario created by unrealistic expectations set at the beginning of the relationship. Either by promising to throw in additional scope that causes serious budgetary issues and being forced to backpedal, or an unrealistic timeline to begin with. In some cases, they may want a functionality that quite simply does not exist. As a proposal manager, I often helped put pitches together that promised the world. Sure, the nuts and bolts were the truth, but very rarely was the delivery team involved in all of the promises that were made on their behalf. This is a sure setup for chaos down the road, often beginning during the implementation phase. Not saying YOUR company does this, but there are some that do. It is so critical that any relationship starts off with honesty and truth. Don’t under-promise and over-deliver. As a former customer of a former employer once said in a public forum, “Just do what you said you would do when you said you would do it”. ‘Client first’ should be more than a slogan you put in proposals, it should be something that all of your customers feel, believe, and experience.

2. The customer wants something that is outside of what they paid for, and it will hurt your business significantly to give it to them.

This again goes back to what you initially promised and how much trust there is in the relationship to begin with. The beginning of a new client relationship is equal to a new marriage. Everyone is so excited at the ceremony. The flowers were lovely, the food was great, the contract is signed. But now, the real work begins. Part of that work is the value proposition you initially put together. We don’t live in a world where you should expect to receive something for nothing – regardless of what today’s current reality tv world shows. Your only recourse here – is to be honest. Politely explain exactly what is covered under the contract, and what isn’t. Offer a proposal to add on the additional services at a reasonable cost. See how easy that was? There’s a saying “You teach people how to treat you”. If you start giving away the kitchen sink in the beginning, you set the expectation that the perceived value is so low, its not worth paying for. And in the process cheapen your brand significantly in the mind of the customer.

3. The customer is just an ogre who is never pleased no matter what you do.

Ey yi yi. We all know this customer, we all know this boss, some of us are even MARRIED to this kind of person. Sigh. Its a tough situation. There’s always that ONE customer who just isn’t happy no matter what you do. And in some cases YOU aren’t even the problem. It could be a bad experience they had with your company in 1995, a food allergy, heck, maybe their dog refuses to use an outside potty. Who knows? The only way to handle this type of customer is the way I’ve always handled micromanagers throughout my career. I flood them to DEATH with information. Constant communication. Ignoring this kind of customer is the very worst thing you can do. Trust me, they will only get worse. And they will tell everyone they know just how much they hate you. All because their dog pooped in the house.

Bottom line. Every customer is unique. And every interaction is unique. People have different expectations, hopes & dreams of what the experience is going to be like. Find out what that vision looks like for them, set realistic expectations of what your service provides – and what it doesn’t. And get to work nurturing. Even the toughest customer can be won over with consistent, clear, and concise communication.

Khara Ashburne
KACE Consulting
Khara Ashburne, has over 16 years of strategic and executive program management experience, specializing in customer experience program design, corporate coaching and closed-loop management. With an extremely passionate view on superior customer experience, she has worked with small and large organizations, driving transformational programs designed to convert customers from simple, passive payers – or even worse, detractors – to loyal enthusiastic advocates of you and your brand.


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