The Customer Is Always Right … Or Are They?

In his latest blog, A.T. Gimbel shares if customers are always right, and in which situations they might not be.

A.T. Gimbel
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March 22, 2022

Is the customer always right? When are they not?

My son was watching an old episode of Shark Tank the other day, and one of the sharks told the entrepreneur not to believe the adage that “the customer is always right.” That got me to thinking - is the customer always right? Of course, the answer depends.

When the customer is right

The customer is usually right in knowing where they feel the biggest challenges and frustrations. They understand which problems are so frustrating that they actively look to solve them but haven’t found the right solution. I also believe when an issue happens, the best course is usually to acknowledge the problem and that the customer is right. Even if it was the customer’s fault for the issue, blaming them usually does not help the situation (even if you are right). Instead, quickly work through the issue to their satisfaction. The lifetime value of a loyal customer is far more important than “being right” on an issue.

When the customer is not right

While the customer may know their problem, they are often not great at determining what the right solution should be. Their views are often narrowly focused on more product features instead of a holistic set of solutions that may combine multiple pieces of data, technology, and humans. As the old saying attributed to Henry Ford goes, “if I asked them what they wanted they would have said a faster horse.”

How to handle the situation

The entrepreneur’s superpower is the ability to hear the problems, understand the nuances, and apply a creative solution to solve the customer’s problem. Spend more time interacting with customers to vet the problem, how it is currently being solved, why those current solutions work well/do not, and really understanding their needs. However, be hesitant just building what the customer asks for (I have made that mistake before)! Should issues arise along the way, it's usually best to honor the customer relationship by resolving the issue instead of applying blame.

Circling back to the original question of a customer always being right or not, sometimes they are and sometimes they aren't. When an issue arises they are usually “right” but when designing new solutions they often can be “not right.” Learn how to listen to the customer, but apply the right lens to solve their problem.

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