iStock_000016288230XSmallThere is an assumption that the customer is always right, no matter what. Let’s challenge this idea.

Who is the customer?

Hamburgers can illustrate this point (hmmm…dinner’s in an hour). Think about all those burger joints, dedicated solely to meat surrounded by bread with numerous combinations of add-ons and condiments. Beyond all those options we can make special requests, too.

Consider the multitude of programs available to curate and share content on social media platforms. They exist because people like choices. Feeling more comfortable with many options, people have an easier time finding others with similar interests and goals.

Specializing in hamburgers means alienating someone who prefers Chinese, pizza or burritos. Your business is the same. People who are not part of target market segments will not find value or satisfaction using your product. Embrace areas of concentration!

What is your value proposition?

Even within target market segments, there will be customers who try to adapt your product to their process. A core group will achieve a perfect fit. A few groups on the periphery will have a partial or very slight fit. Compelled by your story; how you provide customer service plus an overall client experience; and a need for something like what you have, such peripheral patrons may try to force an exact match.

How important is listening to clients? The choice is yours. Some requests will be out of the scope of your product roadmap. Certain customer needs may be customizable. Part of what allows your value proposition to be known is product consistency. Building an offering that includes a little flexibility goes a long way. Knowing what strays far afield from your product’s core value (i.e. because of actions diverting too many resources away from your primary focus) provides a clear path for making effective business decisions.

Just say NO, already!

When a customer is looking for a solution too remote from your business’ clearly defined focal point, tell them. Make it clear. But take care not to be flippant or rude.

This potential client’s research led them to you. You know which competitors and products may be a better fit. Proactively share information about other products that might work or offer an alternate direction for continuing the search.

Recently I looked for a solution to a problem, and thought I finally found the answer. Here’s what transpired on the site’s live chat feature (I’ve changed the names and am leaving the website out on purpose):

Them: Hi, I’m ____, how may I help you?
Me: I’d like to confirm what I see on your site. Do you _______?
Them: No.
Me: OK. This is the closest I’ve come. Can you point me to someone who can do this?
Them: No.

That was the end of the conversation. Needless to say, I was less than impressed and a little disappointed. Beyond the fact that person didn’t want to help me, this conversation holds an element of what I’m trying to illustrate. Namely, the customer service representative poorly communicated – i.e. the one-word-response – that their company could not accommodate my request.

When we decide not to help outside of our core expertise, customers may perceive a negative experience. Offering to help, in any small way, provides goodwill and builds new connections that may result in future business opportunities.

You are the most knowledgeable individual regarding the purpose, scalability and overall customer experience surrounding your products. Stay true to that perception.

Customer-Centric Business

Customer experience drives the underlying relationships fostering growth in your online community, as evidenced in these resources:

  1. Hug Your Customer 
  2. Raving Fans
  3. The Tipping Point 

(NOTE: These are not affiliate links; I receive no compensation for connecting to them.)

These books don’t say do what customers want. They say:

  • Understand needs and wants;

  • Deliver consistent experiences; and

  • Do more than what the customer expects.

Your messaging and direction reinforce the product and service value proposition in the marketplace.

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