Is The Customer Always Right?
Rejoice- January is finally over! The evenings are getting longer, we’ve finally stopped dating things 2017 and most importantly, for those working in retail, the end of their “busy season” has arrived.
I’m sure we’ve all heard a horror story (or two) from someone who works in retail about the stressed and panicked customers in the lead up to Christmas. The pressure seems to build from October onwards, with shoppers demands’ reaching their most ridiculous peak in the final few weeks of December. The pain doesn’t quite end there though, with customers returning with fresh energy in January to tackle the sales.
The one phrase that will get you as good as killed by any retail assistant at this time of year is “The Customer is Always Right”. Say it and see the reaction, I dare you. I guarantee they will have at least 100 examples and 25 detailed case studies why this is, in fact, incorrect.
Is the customer always right?
So why has this been sold to us in the client-facing industry as the mantra to live by? Particularly in the software business, can it ever be completely true? Is this the best way to deliver on Customer Success or should we be throwing the phrase in the back of the same drawer as those naff socks we’ve been gifted by our Gran? (Every. Year.) Let’s take a closer look.
Happy Customers Don’t Equal Successful Customers
We might think that the best way to keep a customer happy is to give them the advantage of always “being right”. Whilst a happy customer is a good short-term achievement, it doesn’t always mean that the customer has been successful.
In his Gainsight article, Lincoln Murphy correctly states that “happy is a feeling. Happy is subjective. Happy is qualitative”, whilst success is more measurable. Our customers are successful when they have achieved a goal. And successful customers are the ones who stick around, even if they’re not always “happy”. Often the happy customers are the quiet ones and sometimes our unhappiest customers give us the best feedback for where to improve.
It’s beneficial to engage with an unhappy client and try and see their point of view. In your opinion, they might not be “right”, but if you level with them they might offer valuable suggestions.
Know Your Limits
If I could have one superpower it would be the ability to stop time so I could do it all. Travel the world, read every book ever written, learn a few languages and after all that have a well-earned nap. Think Hermione Granger’s Time-Turner, Bernard’s Watch or Zack Morris from Saved by the Bell. But unfortunately, we can only do so much with the limited resources and time that we have.
If we were to action every single one of the suggestions put forward to us, we’d be working 24/7 and then some. Whilst feedback is a hugely important part of the customer success function, it’s impossible to give every customer what they want when they want it. It’s better to compile the suggestions and action those which fit both the customer-base as a whole and your business.
It’s good to let your customer know their feedback is valuable but they appreciate you being realistic with them too. This still maintains the customer-centricity but puts less pressure on your resources.
Change Can Be a Good Thing
People don’t like change. When Twitter started allowing 280 characters as opposed to 140, we flipped out. Really though, it wasn’t the end of the world- it was just something new for us to get used to. There was probably an equally large demand for the feature as there was opposition to it.
This happens all the time in software; changes and updates are made, usually with a lot of good reasoning behind them. With this, however, comes customer complaints. We want nothing more than a way to go back to “the good old days”. Eventually, we get accustomed to the changes and even grow to appreciate them, but on first sight, they can make us uncomfortable.
If we were to assume “the customer is always right” in this situation, we might not be making the best possible product we could be. Change can be a good thing and it’s important for the customer to understand the “why” behind the changes for them to be fully on board.
N.B. Change can also be a bad thing. We’re looking at you Toblerone- bring back the old triangles. Drake does not approve.
Customer Success is About Working Together
Many would argue that assuming “the customer is always right” can pit the customer against the employee. Customer Success is quite the opposite in that it relies on businesses working with their customers to ensure support is available throughout their lifecycle.
Some would argue that by not forcing this phrase on employees we actually encourage better customer service. It comes from the feeling of equality and respect on both sides. In my opinion, this is the foundation for customer success.
So What’s the Verdict?
Customers are important; we know that we’d be nowhere without them. It’s important to listen to what they have to say and to treat them with respect. There’s a lot to be learned from adopting the slogan “the customer is always right” but it might not always be the best way to deliver customer success. Have it in the back of your mind, for sure, but don’t let it overtake everything else.