No, the customer is NOT always right

- June 5, 2014 3 MIN READ

One of the unhealthiest things about running a business is that from the moment you open your eyes in the morning, you are switched on. In fact, in this era of extreme connectedness, the first thing most of you reading this probably do when you wake up from the alarm that’s conveniently located on your phone, is check your emails.

I do, every morning. Most mornings it’s fine. It’s usually e-newsletters from overseas-based media companies I am subscribed to. But sometimes, you wake up and are met with one of those emails that baffles and frustrates you to the point where by default you enter a foul mood for the rest of the day.

This by the way, is not just a business owner issue; it happens in the corporate world as well. In fact, any world where you are selling goods and services to people.

As business owners though, you have the power to protect yourself and your staff from undue stress and constant headaches. Sometimes the time it takes to deal with a serial complainer could be better spent bringing on 10 new clients that would result in 10 times the amount of revenue.

When you are starting off, getting into this mode of thinking is hard. Revenue is revenue; and you often find yourself bending rules and your intended sales and service process to make the business development process easier for you. This works great for the first few weeks, but anybody who asks for changes to YOUR systems before they say yes, are most likely going to continue asking for changes for the remainder of the time that they stay a customer of yours.

Here is the thing, it is your business. You built the bloody thing with a clear vision in mind. Bringing that vision to life requires focus, systems and processes. The moment someone demands something outside the scope of what you offer they are disrespecting you and your business – and that person should never be a customer.

The entire reason you put in place systems and processes, is so you can scale your business. You need to be strict with them. Think of all the businesses you engage with on a daily basis that are now large corporates, they are rigid with processes. But being that way is what enabled them to grow.

I am going to put a thought out there that may be a little hard to swallow. As a business owner, you are the person that chooses who will be a customer and who won’t be. Two entrepreneurs that I have watched closely over the last two years adopt this attitude with ferocity and military-like consistency are founders of Strategic Anarchy, Leela and Gulliver Giles.

Leela and Gulliver have built a business that now turns over in excess of $1 million a year. They are now heading towards the 5 million mark; and given the rate at which they are working, it would not surprise me if their agency hits the $10 million revenue mark over the next five years. What I love about these guys is their willingness to publicly say who is a customer of theirs and who is not. This makes non-customers extremely uncomfortable. And it causes them to lash out at the pair, offering uninvited critiques of their operation amongst a mixture of personal attacks.

People like to lash out at businesses that do not divert from process. Look at the vitriol companies like Telstra, Vodafone, Optus, the Banks, Apple, Samsung and many others receive online each day. Sometimes those companies have indeed made a mistake, yes – and need to rectify it. But more times than not the complaints are coming from customers that have not followed these companies processes correctly.

Startups, however, are not utility companies with massive cash flow in abundance, so quite often it is you, the owner that has to deal directly with these issues. It’s these situations when you have the first few customers in your business, that you create the customer culture and standards by which you want to build your company on. Do you want to have others divert you from the path you want to tread? Or are you willing to cut the rope and let those people fall off your mountain so you can reach the top?

It’s sounds harsh, and you should in no way read that I mean it in a “succeed at all costs, trample anyone” kind of way. But when it comes to choosing clients I would much rather spend the effort, sweat and tears assisting someone I liked and am passionate about helping up the mountain, than the person that doesn’t want to listen to me or trust my methods.

We have been brought up in a culture that spouts rhetoric around the customer always being right. What a stupid and ridiculous notion.

You should always admit when you are wrong, and then fix it. But allowing someone to dictate the way you operate in your house is never going to lay the foundations for a strong client relationship.