Is the Customer Always Right?

    By Lauren Kress

     11 minute read

    Since retail giant Harry Gordon Selfridge first uttered "The customer is always right" in 1909, businesses have been tirelessly spouting this motto. But does this hold up in today's world? Is the customer always right? Continue reading to find out what others are saying on this debate.

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    Access this week's Bad Marketing Vodcast below

    What is Customer Centricity?

    Customer-centricity describes a way of designing a business and making decisions so that the customer is regarded as the most important stakeholder to consider.

    Is the Customer Always Right: Final Poll Results

    Results from LinkedIn Poll on "Is the customer always right"
    Video Transcript:

    So this week's poll I put out a question of is the customer always right?

    And, so far it's had 14 votes, so it's been a bit of a busier poll, which is awesome. And we've got some great, comments - it's still running if you want to cast your vote as well.

    But basically I'm just going to read here, so the, the options were, "no, it's a reductive sentiment", "the customer should come first", "Yes" - the customer is always right, or "other", so where we're sitting at at the moment is, "it's a reductive sentiment" is 50%." "The customer should come first is 43%". "Yes", has zero votes.

    No one said that the customer is always right, is right. *laughs* and, a couple of, 7% said other. So here's the comments that we have. So from Nate Kellock - Hey Nate, thanks so much for your comment -

    Nate said "valued customers - value customers, it still stands true, customers that abuse a relationship should be kindly moved on." And Arnaud Michelin said "the customers always right, has that sense of dominance in the relationship.

    And we know that strong and sustainable relationships are built on mutual respect and seeing both parties as equal, even though it's not really a matter of figuring out who is right and who is wrong, as long as both sides get mutual benefits, everyone is happy."

    Love both of those comments, Nate and Arnaud, thank you so much for that. And I will share, I always share my thoughts on this as well. But like I said, the votes - the poll's still open, so feel free to, feel free to, to share your, your thoughts. So for me, I, I voted for the customer should come first.

    Because I think that's probably what the sentiment kind of was getting at. And I think we have to have a stakeholder that we prioritise now. I think what Arnaud said about that kind of power imbalance is interesting, but I think about sort of, why do we create a business in the first place, if we aren't creating it for our customer first, then who are we creating it for?

    Now we could say, as solopreneurs - myself included - "Well, I'm starting a business because I want to - I want to live my dream life. I'm starting a business because I want to, I want to have the lifestyle that I want.

    So I'm going to work with customers that fit with me. But ultimately my reason for starting business is for myself. And I don't think there's anything wrong with starting a business that you want to run. Actually, I think that's extremely important.

    I think that's a very wise thing to do, but I think that, especially in that - so like, you know, it depends what game you're playing, but if you're playing the solopreneur game, you're going to be on your own running business. I think you have to love the business. Right?

    But you also have to find that customer that you're putting first and what that means is, is how - otherwise you've got like so many other stakeholders that you could be putting first. It kind of becomes like, what is this about?

    You know, like if it comes down to, a customer need and you've promised something, and then you're not delivering on that promise because of something that's happened for you or something that you want, then that business is set up to fail. So it, I think it's tricky. I think there's lots of nuance in it, but I think it's, it's not the sentiment of saying that the customer is right.

    It's not sentiment is saying, there's a right and there's a wrong, it's more saying we're solving a problem for someone and that someone is the customer.

    And if we start solving the problem for the customer, unless the bank says something, if we're solving a problem for a customer, unless a partner says something, if we're solving the problem for a customer, unless we are feeling a bit off, if we're solving the problem for a customer, unless it's a very slippery slope towards a business that doesn't deliver on its promise.

    And if a business doesn't deliver on its promise, which lots of businesses don't, uh, I don't think it's a business of integrity because you're making a promise and then you're not fulfilling it. And it's also not sustainable *laughs* 'cause if you, is that not delivering on promises over and over again? Then that's, that's problematic.

    It also makes me think of like, I've been studying career development and counselling, right? So in those kinds of fields, we are talking a lot about customers who may be struggling.

    Customers who are, are going through a difficult time customers who might react in bad ways because of the situation that they're in, difficult, difficult ways, you know, things that are trickier to handle anyone who's worked at a, um, you know, at a, on the, on the front line of customer service, right?

    So I used to be a medical receptionist and you get your fair share of, of challenging situations. If you're working, at a, at a call centre, if you're working, in hospitality, you do deal with difficult customers and you learn how to handle that. You learn how to hopefully if you, you are at a job that supports you, you should be learning how to deal with that.

    But again, you know our, our due diligence is to make sure that a customer's getting the, the care, regardless of whether they're showing up, you know, in a state that's stressful.

    You know, if, if the customer didn't come first in a lot of situations, that would be problematic, like walking into an emergency room and needing medical care and then that not being considered because it's like, you don't look right.

    Or you look difficult, actually. Some of the people who need help the most are people that are quote unquote "difficult", they're in a crisis situation. So the customer is always right.

    Definitely doesn't stand up there. Right? It definitely doesn't. I, I think the, I, I agree that it's reductive as well, but I think there's a, there's a difference in saying the customer's always right, and the customer should come first.

    If you are in the job of helping in the, in the world of helping people, if that's what you're trying to do, then prioritising other things before that is not okay. I mentioned before that, if it comes down to like, you need something, your customer needs something and therefore you can't fulfil on your promise.

    That's, that's not great, but that's also more about how we design the business so that you are not, a linchpin, right? Like you are not the person that's kind of like, "oh, okay, well, if I'm not here, everything falls down".

    That means you're also not putting the customer first. It's not saying that, you should drop everything, but that no, you need to design your business so that the customer can come first.

    So how do we do that? How do we actually design a business where we have prioritise that, that customer?

    I just want to pull up for one second, this little baby that I showed, last week. So I talked about these sort of five pillars for, uh, growth. The first one is audience insight. And that's what I want to talk about more today. I'll quickly go through the others again, just as a refresher.

    So you have a growth roadmap, a customer journey, marketing technology, and market reputation. And I think like in all of these, the customer comes first holds true, but with a growth roadmap, that's where we're talking about, what do you want for your business as well?

    So it's not that it's like, forget the, the founder, forget what the, a business is trying to do. That absolutely comes into it. But we, audience insight is a key pillar because that feeds into every other aspect of the business. Okay.

    So basically there's, there's four key things we need in order to make sure that we are putting that customer first, that we are designing our business in a way that's going to be sustainable, that we're gonna deliver on our promise and that we understand what our promise needs to be in the first place, what our value proposition is.

    So I always like to start with a key stakeholder map now in a, if I'm working with someone who has a very clear key, very clear customer, very clear key stakeholders, we probably won't spend too much time on it.

    If I'm working with someone who has, a larger internal team and a very large, very large businesses that they're selling to, we're gonna spend more time on a key stakeholder map. Now I did a video on key stakeholder mapping a while ago. I'm gonna do a refresh one, cause I've just, um, discovered a new way to do this on mirror, which I'm loving, um, highly recommend checking out Miro as well.

    It's a fantastic app. I'll - I'll share the, the link to the key stakeholder map here, but, um, what I'm also going to be doing is putting together, an audience insight - audience insight, laboratory kit. So it's something that I know a lot of people are asking for is like tools for market research.

    So I'm going to put, put together a kit it's going to cost about 25, 50 bucks. And it's gonna walk through all of the things that you need to do, to get that audience insight.

    I'm thinking what I'll probably do is release this, in the co- in the next week or so, and I'll have a special over Christmas and New Years for - cause I know a lot of people are going back to "alright, let's focus in on our audience, let's focus in on our customer over the January period. So I'll do that for half price for like $25 and then, it'll be available, after that I'll also have free resources that you can access as well.

    So I'll be sharing, that link a little later this week and if you come back to this video, it'll be in the comments too. And basically I will walk through all of these things.

    But, so we have the key stakeholder map, how we do that, how we use that, right? 'Cause it's like, it's easy enough to go and look at how to do a key stakeholder map.

    Like I said, I've got a free video available on YouTube, but it's more about what do we do with that? What do we do once we have an idea of who our key stakeholders are and obviously our customer too, we need to hypothesise our category entry points.

    So this is something pretty much every business I've worked with has not worked, has not done this. And it's like a key step in planning for a route-to-market strategy and also growing a business.

    So we need to have, a clear idea of our category entry points. We need to have a clear idea of when, why, where, who with, what with, what's happening for people, when they are first interested, they're entering our category.

    They're entering the world of "eventually going to purchase" from us or our competitors. What's going - what's going on for them? What are the triggers? What are the things that are happening? And that looks different.

    If it's depending on the type of service you deliver, depending on the type of product you deliver. So we make a hypothesis because we don't really know, but we have a guess. We do an empathy map. So, and we look at that empathy map over time, you'll see a lot of empathy maps. What they do is they look at like what's happening for, it's sort of similar to category entry points.

    We're looking at, what are people hearing what's going on for them? What are they doing? What are they saying? What are people saying to them? What are their pain points? What are the things that they want? That's, that's sort of our typical empathy map.

    But what we really want to do is we want to look at the empathy map, not just in one state of mind, but in multiple states of mind. So this a common problem that I see when people are trying to understand more about their customer, is they research past customers.

    So they look at "what is my" - or my current customer - "What does my current customer say their pain point is?" "What does my past customer say their pain point is?" 'Cause we have access to our current and past customers. But actually we have to think about what's happening earlier on in the journey.

    What are people searching for on Google? Right? First thing, what are people searching for on Google? What are people doing once they, find some solutions?

    How long does it take for them to make a decision? Who does the research? Are they the customer? Are they the end user? Or are they, an executive assistant? Is it a, a founder who's doing the research? So that's where again, the key stakeholder map and the empathy map play together. So we map that out.

    What are the different mindsets - mindsets? Yeah - Mindsets that the customer is in throughout their journey? And that's going to inform later what we do with our customer journey mapping as well. But for now we're trying to get audience insight and we test it. So we hypothesise, we hypothesise "I think these are the key stakeholders", "I think these are the category entry points."

    I think this is what's happening for them in terms of their empathy map, in their decision making process. And now let's go to the field and see if this is true.

    So for me, the way I like to do my market research, it's not through sending a feedback form. It's not through interviewing my existing clients because my existing clients now - hopefully if I've done my job right - are in a completely different state of mind, it's actually going and looking at keyword research and conducting interviews with people who don't work with me. "Do you have this problem?" "What is happening - what is happening here?"

    The kind of cool thing about doing that is sometimes you end up also finding, potential new clients. And like, I don't plan that at all. I, I don't sell in my market research, in my market research interviews at all, but I've made a connection.

    Usually I'm doing this re: LinkedIn, I've made the connection, had a chat and then people have gone, "oh, actually when you put this solution together, when you, when you put together your package or whatever you're doing, can you send it to me and let me know?" You know?

    So it ends up becoming like, because people want to be heard. Our customers want to be heard, they want to be asked, but they don't want to be sent, you know, like - how many emails do we get going: Oh, fill in this form. You know? Here's a survey. You can do that.

    I've got a video also on how you can do that for free. You can do that. But to me, I think it's much better if you can have those, quality conversations, even if it's with five people, doesn't have to be with heaps of people.

    So like I said, I'm going to have this audience insight, laboratory kit that I'm putting together. I've created a membership, hub and a, and sort of like a product hub that's called Lauren's Laboratory as well. I created it a while ago, but I haven't done anything with it. So I'm going to do things with it in 2022.

    'Cause I know a lot of the time people aren't interested in a whole big, solution, for their marketing strategy, what they want is they want a little bit of help.

    So that's what I'm going to be putting together. So like I said, this is my last episode for the year, I hope you have a fabulous break. I hope you have a break planned. I hope you have a great Christmas or holiday season and a fantastic new year - bring on 2022!

    And when I come back, what we'll be talking about is when people say, "Oh, we actually get most of our business from referrals". I've talked to people who are very proud of that.

    As like, "Oh no, no, don't worry about marketing for me. I get most of my business from referrals." And I'm like, that means you're sitting on a gold mine and you're not doing anything with it!

    So if you are getting referrals, that's awesome, but benchmark-wise with like big, bigger, market leaders who are performing well, that only makes up a small percentage of their overall income because they're doing all of the marketing and sales, right?

    So, that's how you get scalability. That's how you get growth. So if that's what you want, you don't want to be relying on referrals. You want them and you want to just see them as, one avenue. I want to talk about that more in the new year. Have a fabulous break and a great rest of the week!

    All right, cheers guys.


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