The customer is not always right

It's time to throw out the old adage that "the customer is always right." Finding the right type of customer is much more important.

The customer is not always right

I started my business career as a young kid on the shop floor of my mother’s sportswear manufacturing business. She had a number of big accounts in our town, included Australia’s Olympic team as a client. Her view of customer relations was that “the customer is always right”. It was a common 20th Century industrial view.

It was also the view of my first official employer, a FMCG retailer where I started working as soon as I reached the minimum working age – 15 or 16 I think. The customer is always right. I’ve been hearing it for more than 30 years.

But the customer is not always ‘right’. Sometimes they don’t know what they actually want, and often enough they don’t know the processes involved in delivering the outcomes they desire.

I am no different. So when I engage our lawyers to do a job I want an outcome and I don’t pretend to understand the process of law required to (hopefully) deliver that outcome. Ditto for our work with our creative partners in Red Hill Publishing. We provide a brief, monitor the brief but welcome their creative genius into our business.

The 21st Century is seeing a change in corporate attitudes to customers – with the world’s population nearing 7 billion people and an expanding middle class, there are plenty of them. This is particularly true those engaged in the creative economy.

What we’re seeing from other business, and what we’re implementing in ours, is a processes of attracting the right kind of customers. We’re not in the business of providing services but of creating value. For us the right kind of customers understand that.

It is not possible to successfully grow a small business without clearly understanding your culture, and changing it to suit the needs of a customer who doesn’t value what you value can have serious negative consequences.

Consider that if you find customers who value what you value there won’t be any need for the customer to always be right. It simply will be.