Jacqueline Drew on marketing: The customer isn't always right

Money Talks is a collection of daily columns from The Business Network, which airs weekday mornings on CBC Radio One at 5:45 a.m. ET (6:15 a.m. ET in N.L.).

By Jacqueline Drew, founder of Start Marketing in Calgary
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"The Customer is always right," coo many business people, pretending that their customers' word is gospel, "Yes, yes, yes....it's our fault. We'll fix that right away sir..." And many consumers have smugly come to believe that no matter what the circumstances, businesses should indeed cower to their complaint or whim.

As a marketing professional, shouldn't I agree? After all, good marketing is really about fulfilling every desire customers have, isn't it?

Well, sorry but not all the time.

Here's what I mean:

- Ever had a threatening, bullying customer? The kind that returns a product and demands his money back, or refuses to pay a bill, just because he thinks you'll back down? So if you do give him his way, then what? Have you saved your reputation? No. I think you have proven to yourself that you are the kind of business that can be walked on. And one that won't stick up for its own rights, or the rights of its staff. Better to be a leader and be strong than let that kind of customer win.

- What about clueless or uninformed customers? The ones who just don't understand what you're selling? Should you give him the poorer-quality stuff at a cheaper price because he thinks you're trying to rip him off by selling him something better? No, I don't think so. You should go to bat - diplomatically find the flaws in the customer's logic, teach the customer something. Giving that honest education will win you long-term loyalty.

- And finally, what if you're in the position where you're being paid for your expertise - as a lawyer or consultant would do? If the customer here tells you what she wants and you agree - and agree even when she's wrong - then is that customer really getting the expertise she's paying you for? Of course not. Your job is to tell her when she's wrong - and if you don't you're not doing your job, as tough as it may be.

In a nutshell, customers are wrong - lots of times.

Why? Because at different times we're all customers - depending on what side of the counter we're on. And while I know that we must listen very carefully to customers, it is better to be honest and point out when they're wrong than to let them think they're always right.

- Jacquelyn Drew

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