Do you believe in the phrase the customer is always right? Don’t! Wake up! You have been dreaming. You have been misled. The truth is, he rarely is. The customer is not always right! The notion that he is, could be costing you sales, and worse, you (mis) leading him down the wrong path.
Take the bank that is seeking a software solution. They nominate someone (likely in IT) to go on a hunt for requirements from those who will use the software, with a query like, “What would you like from the system?” And right there, the inaccuracy begins. KIla mwamba ngoma ngozi huvutia kwake, the Waswahili proverb says. (To make it taut, the drum maker pulls the skin in his direction). Meaning, people will always do what suits them. And because there is no scientific method of collecting this data (and because the first reaction to change is resistance) the requirements are shared in the way the user sees fit for him specifically and not to the organisation in general. All the requirements are then collated into must-haves and nice-to-haves.
It is the unwise software company that is then given this brief to offer a solution, and jumps to dish it out. Because the problem was looked at through inexperienced eyes, knowledgeable IT firms will tell you that they do not take the requirements at face value. They probe, prod and process it. Wiser ones go a step further and ensure that they position themselves to be the ones seeking the requirements. They have since learnt that what’s in it for the customer is not necessarily what’s good for him.
Reasons why believing the customer is not always right gets sales
Now then. A customer is like a patient. When you go to the doctor you complain of a pain. And the doctor explores: “Where do you feel it? When did it start? Is it localised or general? Does it hurt more at night or during the day?” and on and on. The patient never tells the doctor what his problem is because the patient doesn’t know it himself; what he knows is the symptom. But because medicine is a rarefied field, the doctor is seen as an authority, and bodily pain is very personal, the patient is naturally subservient. Sadly, in selling, possibly thinking he will look foolish if he admits ignorance, the customer authoritatively presents his symptoms as the problem, and the hapless salesperson, bent on meeting his targets, swallows it hook, line and sinker, with detrimental results.
The customer is not always right, but the customer is King. Because the purchase of the product was informed by a flawed prognosis, it is soon apparent that it was not the solution desired. And guess who is to blame? You guessed it! Mwamba ngoma huvutia kwake. The buyer will not admit fault, and blames the product to his boss. “The problem is this new software.” If the seller gets wind of this , he struggles to defend his position, looking to the terms of reference of the contract, for salvation, and the patchwork begins. This costs time and money. Soon enough, the unhappy customer is shopping elsewhere. Only this time, he (together with the new and wiser seller) having learnt from your mistake, address the problem-not the symptom, as you had.
Best answer for customer is always right
The customer is always right except when they are wrong. So, next time, when with a customer, explore the symptoms he shares. Help him make a purchase decision. You will find that there’s is not a training problem as they had emphatically stated; but instead, the company needs to tighten controls or sack specific errant elements in the sales team. Having exposed this problem you will have forged a bond and served your purpose, which is to offer a solution. The customer is not always right. True of false?
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