Don’t Blame the Customer

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I had the pleasure of attending a social event connected to a convention I was attending in Calgary. The organizers had planned an entertainment-packed evening at a “cowboy ranch” with gun slinging cowboys, a comedian, a live auction, and for those who were brave enough, a mechanical bull. All the proceeds were to go to the organization’s foundation.
Unfortunately, many members of the audience were happy just to sit and socialize and then get back to the hotel for some rest before the next day’s program. So when the host announced that the first bus had arrived, half the group left, making the auction a dud.
The organizers were ticked. They spent all this time and energy to plan a great outing and the attendees had the gall to leave early!
They fell into the trap of “blaming the customer” and I hear variations of it in many of the organizations I work with. I’ve done it myself – blame the customer for not buying, blame the participants for a mediocre session (this happens rarely!).
Don’t Blame the Customer
You have heard the expression, “the customer is always right.” Now we know that the customer isn’t always right, however it could be said that, “the customer is always right in his/her own mind.”
This distinction is important because right or wrong, when the customer decides to vote with her feet and money, the impact is felt on your organization. Similarly in a “discussion” with my wife Robin I can choose between being “right” and spending quality time on the couch or allowing her to be “right” which makes for a cosier bed time.
No amount of “marketing” can push a bad product or service onto a customer and expect to last in the long term. Many organizations think they know better what the customer wants, when in reality the customer isn’t buying it.
Be Thankful for “Challenging” Customers
Customers with high expectations help challenge your organization to achieve more.  One group of customer service reps was complaining about how disorganized their customers were. I pointed out that those disorganized customers were placing even greater value on the service provided by their company. If the customers were better organized they would place less value on the service provided and profits would decrease.
There will be customers who you are better off without. The ones that cost you more than you make. Before writing them off, consider how to provide the level of service they expect at a profit.
Reflection Questions
Does your organization blame the customer for it’s challenges? Are you an accomplice to this act? How could your organization be more customer-focused and earn record profits?
Action Items

  • Listen for signs that your organization is blaming the customer for its woes.
  • Ask questions that move your organization forward, “How can we win the business and maintain profitability?”
  • Stop complaining about customers and start finding ways to make them happy at a profit.
  • Remember that the ultimate antidote to having difficult customers is having no customers at all…