The Customer is Always Right?
The phrase "the customer is always right" was coined by César Ritz, a mid-19th-century hotel magnate, and it was popularized in the United States by John Wanamaker. For a long time, it was a commonly held marketing strategy. More recently, experts shy away from this line of thinking. This is because it ignores the possibility that some people cannot be pleased. I would instead contend that business owners can actually take steps to ensure the customer is always right by establishing good policies, communicating effectively and promising only what you can deliver every day,
Every company has strengths and weaknesses. My company offers services to fit a number of needs, but sometimes what we offer doesn't jive with what a client is asking for. It is tempting, especially when you're just starting, to take on every customer and yes them to death. Either you will need to come to terms with providing the exact service the client wants every time or you will end up with a customer you cannot please and they will be right about it. When I first started, I made this mistake, and it took some time to recover. Once you agree to do something, it's difficult to go back and renegotiate. Making sure your clients are a good fit for the service you want to provide is the first step to making sure the customer is always right.
If you regularly read my posts, you know that I believe good communication is paramount to running a successful business. Making sure your customer is always right is just as much about fit as it is proper communication.
When we do a meet and greet, we are very specific about how our service works. We take a client through everything we do and don't do. Our contract includes everything, and a manager basically reads it out loud. We answer every question they have truthfully, and as a rule, we never agree to break our policies for anyone.
Deliver on your promises
Nerd alert! I love economics podcasts. Last weeks Freakonomics podcast revolved around people's tendency to focus on "headwinds", or life's obstacles, while "tailwinds", the good stuff, is fleeting. If you apply this thought process to the business to customer (B2C) relationship, it holds true that customers will take the days that go perfectly for granted, and the days when you don't meet expectations will be remembered.
It's not easy to deliver every day. It's actually impossible. There are forces beyond our control that influence the quality of our services. Dog walking and pet sitting are very labor intensive. People make mistakes. Animals are unpredictable. Shit happens! Unfortunately, this isn't the customer's problem. If a business doesn't deliver on its promise, no matter the reason, the customer is always right.
When the customer is right that a business didn't meet expectations, it doesn't necessarily mean they're angry, going to fire you, or will give you a bad review. In most cases, just alerting them to an issue, apologizing and letting them know what you plan to do is enough. Sometimes at Walk It Like A Dog, through no fault of our own, we run late. We get flat bike tires, puppies or sick dogs sometimes need an impromptu crate cleaning and a bath :-/ We know a customer's service is being negatively impacted, but a simple phone call usually is all it takes to meet expectations.
During the meet and greet, I tell customers some of the reasons we run late, what I find acceptable and what I will do in those situations. When we don't do those things, I know the customer is right, and I basically ask for their forgiveness. If we really dropped the ball, forgiveness will include a free walk or two.
Accepting that the customer is always right is a frame of mind that allows business owners to view the business through the eyes of their customers. It helps me manage expectations and take prompt, appropriate action when something goes wrong.