Is the Customer Always Right?

My husband and I were watching Shark Tank the other day (one of our favorite shows) and noticed an interesting exchange between the sharks and the business owners asking for an investment for their brand of almond water.
Every time one of the business moguls had a criticism about the product or the way the business was run, the owner would quickly respond with “I can change that!”
What was so interesting about this wasn’t the fact that the business owner was so quick to change his business practices (although it was pretty surprising). It was the sharks’ response. Rather than pat the guy on the back and thank him for his willingness to bend over backwards to please them, they got angry.

Business Owner: If it has sugar and that’s a problem for you, we can make a kid’s line…
Mark Cuban: Honestly, you’re starting to come across as desperate. […] There’s a difference between being aggressive and a great salesperson and then saying ‘yes’ to every question a potential investor asks.
Owner: I haven’t said yes to anything yet.
Cuban (getting angry): YES YOU HAVE! You’ve said yes to everything!
Owner: I’m not gonna cut the sugar completely, but if you think it’s a little too sweet….

The gist of their protests boiled down to one simple point: there was no need for him to uproot and rework his entire business model just because a few people didn’t like it.

The Dark Side of “The Customer is Always Right!”

sad face on concrete

If you’ve spent any time in the retail business (as an employee or customer), you’ve probably heard the saying “the customer is always right!” This cliché is usually pulled out by managers and supervisors in an attempt to mollify an angry customer. But it’s easy to take this saying to heart a little too much.
Is the customer always right?
Sometimes, this mindset leads to customers (or sharks) dictating your business practices for you, leading you in a direction that’s not right for you or your business.
Let’s say for a moment that you own a jewelry store. Things are swimming along just fine, when one of your regulars says, “You should start selling purses! I’m always changing my purses to go with my jewelry for the day. I bet other people are thinking the same thing. They’d sell great!”
So you start carrying purses. Now, how many people come into a jewelry store looking for a great handbag? Exactly: none. So you probably wouldn’t be surprised when your customers don’t buy any purses for the entire quarter (nope, not even the regular who suggested it).
So now you’ve got a giant handbag display filled with inventory (not to mention all the overstock in the back) taking up space that could be occupied by jewelry (which is actually selling).

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Who’s the Boss?

It’s important to remember that you are the boss here. So stay in control! You decide what type of industry you want to be in and what you want to offer. Certain products, services, processes, and ideas may not work for you right now (or ever), or maybe you’re just not interested in tapping into a certain market. No matter how many customers ask for it.
For example, despite the popularity of mobile apps, Clarity has stayed out of the app development game because we know that we’re not the best at it. Nope, not gonna do it. Stop asking.
Perhaps Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec said it best:

“Here’s the part I don’t like: you almost listen too much. When you’re this small, you can’t assume the customers know what they want. […] I just don’t like the fact you’re telling me you’re going to listen to the customers all the time. You can’t please everybody.”

Listening to everybody—and trying to please them all—will pull you in so many different directions that you’ll lose sight of where you wanted to be in the first place.

Is the Customer EVER Right?

We’re not giving you a free pass to slack off on customer service or ignore your customers’ buying trends. If you’re putting yourself out of business by continuing to market your line of hair crimpers or floppy disc storage containers, that’s sticking your head in the sand. And if you’re snarky towards customers who have legitimate complaints about your product or service, that’s bad business practice.
The key is to do enough research to be confident in what you offer and then have the courage to stick to your guns. If someone has a suggestion for changing something, first consider:

  • Whether or not their complaint or suggestion makes sense for the current market
  • Whether or not the suggestion makes sense for your business
  • Whether it is possible and profitable for you to make that change.

Anything else is just desperate.

Clarity Creative Group is a web design & internet marketing company located in beautiful Orlando, Florida. It’s funny how many people go on Shark Tank and treat the investors like consultants. They’re not consultants.



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