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Business Strategy Newsflash: Your Customers Are Actually Always Right, Here’s Why

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “I’ve been around since before dirt was invented.” Another thing that’s been around since dirt was invented is companies saying their customers are being unreasonable. Those pesky customers, eh? Always asking you to do things. What a so-called unreasonable customer is actually saying is, “You may actually have to do some work!”

I get it, though. Some customers are way more intense and demanding than others. That can be challenging to deal with. The really interesting thing is that the majority of demanding customers are actually successful in business. People who demand results are successful. Wow, say it isn’t so! What a concept. In manufacturing, we’re always pushing our vendors to innovate. Guess who that vendor’s customer is? It’s you! Yes, you are a demanding customer, too. You and statistically speaking, a lot of your friends, relatives and neighbours.

I recently watched the press conference announcing the new iPhone 7 from Apple. Though they are a formidable and impressive company, the news outlets were already saying they’d lost their innovative mojo before the conference even began. Many customers and reporters were already writing off Apple as a has-been. That’s intense! Can you imagine the pressure the Apple team felt to stay innovative, only to be met with such impossible expectations before they even announced their new product?

In the retail industry, some chains can be brutal to their vendors and suppliers – always asking for something. One of the major things retailers expect from vendors is for them to take back product because consumers have returned it. The retailer just accepts your item back, for a full refund, without many questions. This makes sense for a pair of headphones that didn’t work, but what’s the deal with people returning bread and potatoes at the grocery store? Buying groceries is literally the definition of “what you see is what you get.” I bet vendors get annoyed. They think, “How dare these retailers do this? Who is that person returning an item in a store?” Once again, it’s you!

I think you’re getting my point here. Every day, we’re challenged by customers and the financial realities of the marketplace. We love to blame a faceless entity out there for this constant pressure and lost profits, yet that entity is actually all of us.

I understand there are some customers and people who are just totally bonkers. You probably know a few of them in your life. They’re the people who return bread and potatoes. Returning an item makes total sense if it is defective, however please explain to me exactly how a potato can be defective. I’d love to know. Most people returning grocery items do so because they bought too much, and felt that it was within their rights to return them, so that someone else could absorb their mistake. I will reserve judgment on them until another day, though I think you get how I feel about those who lack personal responsibility.

The bottom line is that we as customers set high expectations for our vendors, and for the products we buy from them, but when those same high expectations are applied to us from our own customers, we get upset and annoyed and think they are unreasonable. 

All companies need to keep working hard every day to meet customer expectations to the best of our ability. If we do this, we will retain most of our customers, and develop positive relationships with them. There will always be some expectations that are truly unattainable that we will never meet. But what counts is how much we are willing to work on being a better supplier, manufacturer and employee to meet the vast majority of the expectations thrown our way.

Just remember that your customer did not set those expectations, we all did. So, how willing are you to meet your own expectations?

How do you ensure your customers’ expectations are met in your business? What do you do if they’re not?