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The Customer May or May Not be Frequently Not Right

Posted 2008-03-19 Tags: None

I just read The Top 5 Reasons Why the Customer is Always Right is Wrong and it's interesting, but there's a whole part of customer interaction that they have kind of skipped over, and I think it's important. I'm going to add my #6, which is really just more on #5.

The Customer is Frequently Not Right.

It's kind of a simple thing to say, and it directly contradicts that saying that we're all familiar with and mostly don't like, but it's a simple truth that we all know, deep down. Because Customers are People and People are frequently wrong. I know. I'm a person. I'm wrong a lot. Like the other day, I was playing a game with my family and I misinterpreted one of the rules. We read as a group and clarified. Or another time when I decided that I would try something called Sushi Pizza - I figured that two things I loved would be great when combined. Wrong. Or this other time when I thought that the cold that I had wasn't anything major, but I went to the doctor and she told me that I was really sick.

That last one is the one I want to focus on.

In that particular situation, I was a the Customer and the Doctor was the Contractor / Employee (I'll stick with Contractor for the purpose of saving myself typing time). I, the Customer, did not really know how to deal with a particular problem so I went to someone else who did - I Contracted that person, in fact, to help me out. I thought that I had a minor cold, and the doctor didn't and gave me a bunch of medication. I, the Customer, was wrong. "But," you might say, "that's not a generalize-able situation! The doctor has a specialized service / knowledge!" That is the case about any producer / consumer, contractor / client, employee / customer relationship, though, and it's an important thing to think about. You go to a producer / contractor / employee to get a particular good or service that you either decline to or cannot provide for yourself. In most cases, it is "cannot"; the customer is not able to provide for themselves the particular thing that they require.

Here is where I am frequently puzzled - if the customer does not have the ability to create the good or perform the service, why are they likely correct about it? The producer / contractor / employee is the one who knows more about their particular product. And if they're good at what they'll do, they'll share the knowledge with the customer.

A part of good customer service is trying to find the points at which the customer is not right and to correct them. My doctor, for instance, corrected my assumption that I had a cold. A good lingerie salesperson would point out that their customer is wearing the incorrect bra size. A good web developer might tell you, "No, we're not going to put all the styles in-line". And after all of these mistakes are pointed out, they will come up with the right solution and you should listen to them. You should listen because, if they're successful, they know more about what they're doing than you do, and a large part of what you are paying for is the knowledge that they have accrued over the time that person has spent in their chosen vocation.

The customer is frequently wrong. That's why they're the customer.

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