"The Customer Is
Always Right....."

..... and talk to any 'old hat' and they'll tell you they were taught this from the beginning of their apprenticeship days. If they themselves became managers or even owners of companies they have more than likely reiterated this to their subordinates.

The 'Bossus Biggus' era, that time when the boss gave only himself the right to actually think - the sole purpose for workers was to carry out his wishes - was when this business ethic gave birth. A further complication was the boss also deemed the customer his friend so questioning the customer (or his motives) was tantamount to questioning the boss..... oops!

Business pressure has, over the years, increased and there was no alternative for the boss but to start letting go of some of his workload and his requirement to do all of the thinking. Furthermore, this pressure drove him into a position of having to employ technology to stay ahead. Staying ahead, however, forced him and his company to become more focused on sales and services of their products meaning that information regarding the technology they purchased was not foremost in their minds.

This is, sadly, what salesmen prey on i.e. that the customer is likely not to be au fait with the technology he requires and, in any event, has not the time nor the resources to become clued up.

There are the apparently more honest salesmen that will hear a customer's requirements but then slowly steer the customer's thinking towards their own in an attempt to 'win' the sale. This modus operandi has a give-away line starting with "what are you actually trying to do" which is usually followed by "the trick we usually use is .....". These are not words the client wants to hear!

With the customer no longer having time to become acquainted with the technology, as well as having to rely on questionable sales talk, it comes as no surprise that "the customer is always right" are words far from the truth. Reality shows that the customer is seldom right. You want proof? The existance of Technical Support departments and Help Desks is proof enough. Customers are notorious for making horrendous mistakes and through them utilise a supplier's extremely costly resources in correcting the situation.

However, the fact that customers feed a business should never be lost sight of...

With this attitude comes a style of thinking. Yet, for the attitude to be perpetuated through the ranks something has to replace the now outdated slogan. Having balked against the older "always right" principle all my working life did not make it easy finding a replacement slogan that could be adopted. What did help many years ago was a poster claiming

"The Customer is King"

History has comfortably proved that many kings have made horrendous mistakes, but that has very seldom resulted in him no longer having his posh seat! He still remains king.

One thing kings (customers) do know, and know well, is what they want. Usually the first desire is to succeed, and often this means to be Number 1. When a king wants something, and it is proved to be pertinent to his achieving his goal, it becomes foolish to ignore his wishes. Also, if one king wants something that will enhance his business, surely it will mean that other kings would find the same idea beneficial. This will be reflected in your sales figures meaning their idea has enhanced your business!

A clever king also surrounds himself with advisors. Now if your customers wish to avail themselves of your technical support to make wise decisions then this would be best viewed as a compliment rather than as an encumbrance.

Being an advisor, however, brings us to the closing requirement - listening! If your customer is to be treated as a king, then it can only be deemed as the highest respect to listen to him. The problem with many kings is they will often mumble, maybe not in speech but most certainly in meaning. Trying to understand a king's requirement or problem may well lead to many hours of discussion and analysing to arrive at the actual need or fault.

And so, all that remains to be said is kings are known to reward handsomely those who provide loyal service.

(there it is again, that word "service", how it keeps cropping up whenever "good business practices" are spoken of!)

Marc Dekenah.

© 01.01.02