When to listen to the customer…. and when to turn deaf to their wishes??

“This product won’t work in our bar… we have a very surreal ambiance and we don’t want to change that” said one of my clients when I went to them with a business proposal. I work as an intern in a company that deals in innovative party products, and we really wanted this specific bar in Delhi to use our services.

It was difficult to make the bar owner agree with my point, so I used the other approach. I crashed one of their Friday parties with my product, a tiny device which makes your drinks glow, and used before the crowd. Result…it was an instant hit. The owner had to agree with me and gave the company a huge client.

This cleared a huge misconception which I had in my head, whether to trust the customer or not. My one year of experience as a marketing student has taught me….don’t blindly trust the customer. The bar owner, in my case didn’t want to invest in something which he hadn’t experimented with before, because he was unsure of the end results. I realized his unspoken concerns regarding my company’s concept….and categorically made his concerns vanish.

The Customer Has No Clue….

Firstly, let’s talk about the resistance to change, that every person has. Even customers, are usually content with every little piece of technology that they have.

There definitely is a latent need for a better product. A tiny little voice in the customer’s heads going “You can do better Apple!!!!!”, but it is consciously ignored. Reason being, if a product is working for you and working well, why should one ask for more innovation. “If it ain’t broke why fix it??”.

The pagers were a remarkable technology back in 1990s….most customers wouldn’t have mind using it for the rest of their lives to communicate. But then, innovation gave birth to the mobile phone, which got people really excited… “We really don’t need anything more after this little gadget” the customers probably thought. And then BOOM…Apple dropped onto us the modern smart phone with a touch screen and internet. And people loved it. A smart phone is a ubiquitous device now. And why did it work…. because the customer had no clue what he wanted. They didn’t want to change, but then every little innovation satisfied one latent need after the other. Moral: companies like Apple, teach its customers what they want. They focus on customer satisfaction…rather than analysing what they want. And like Apple, hundreds of other corporates do the same.

Stand Resolute With Your Offering

Almost all organizations in the world sell experiences now. Be it a hotel, a shopping store or a school, a lot of focus is given to experience felt by the customers. I recently read an article on this very topic, in which the interviewee described her views about her hotel business and if customers are right or not. She talked about educating the customers without forcing her restaurant’s offerings onto them.

Adding to the previous postulate about educating the customer, I believe there is a need on the part of the organization to stand by their product/offering. A few minor changes as per the customer’s requirements should be allowed. Like, in the aforementioned hotel, if the customer wants less salt in his pizza, it’s an OK. But if the customer makes the absurd demands that he wants the Pizza to taste like Domino’s …then it’s a red flag. Stand by your offerings…firm and resolute….make it a point to correct the customer by pointing out his mistake…. “We don’t sell that”. Period…Full stop… there is a fine line between accommodating the customer and being his slave.

This can only be achieved when a company has full confidence in their product, that even if they lose one nasty customer, it won’t affect business.

Assist As much As You Can

The people buying from you don’t always know everything about the product. It is important for all the employees to be patient with the customers. Keep in mind, that the customer is mostly wrong. Obviously, most of their requests will sound absurd to you. But, being a professional, it is your solemn duty to educate and correct the customer’s perception regarding your product as much as possible.

One example could be when a new customer walks into a Subway restaurant. There is a lot to choose from in their menu, and a first time customer would definitely be confused. Having eaten my fair share of Subway sandwiches I’m sure had the waiters not been patient in telling me about the different sauces I would have never visited any of its outlets ever again.

Build The Correct Perception

Sometimes, the customer is wrong because of the company’s fault. The advertisements and promotional campaigns build up the customer’s hopes and when the final product is a let-down, you can’t blame them can you.

There have been numerous advertising scandals in the past, accusing companies of misleading the customers and then not delivering. Rather than educating some companies peddled lies. Like Red Bull once got into a law suit over its claim that the drink increases concentration.

Companies should make sure the correct image regarding the product is conveyed to the customer. This helps fill the gap.

And Finally

It can be clearly seen that the customer has no clue what the hell is going on. In short, he is like the kid in a water park, trying out every ride and just going with the flow. What else can be expected from people who mistook Snapdeal for Snapchat during the very recent fiasco.

The age old adage that “CUSTOMER IS THE KING” is still valid. But the king must be taken care of by his loyal subjects…the advisors…the companies and its employees in this metaphor.

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