Some Suppliers are not Worth Having

It seems that recently, discussion keeps coming up about the phrase "The customer
is always right", and it has
been brought up
that "some customers aren’t worth having". This has
been the frequent response to customer complaints on the Borland newsgroups, as Nick
points out, and recently Jacob Thurman, author of the CodeRush
clone Castalia just wrote
a lengthy blog item
about how if a customer doesn’t do as is expected from him
(deliver his dough, be happy and leave you alone), then a customer is not worth
having. God forbid he might ask support questions and thus cost you money!

I suppose as a logical consequence one should – for example – limit support requests.
A customer has asked for support for the fourth time? Better blacklist him for future
purchases. A customer complains about bugs, requests future enhancements but is
not willing to shell out big dough to see it implemented? Better tell him to get
lost.

Call me weird, or call me a bad business man, but for some reason i disagree with
this approach. In my opinion, the phrase "the customer is always right"
is one of the basic foundations to build a successful and customer-oriented business
upon. Of course this phrase isn’t (and never was) meant to be taken literally –
assuming that your customer is human like the rest of us, he will make mistakes
or be wrong once in a while. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give your customer
the benefit of the doubt.

For example, if your customer reports a bug, then treat it as a bug, even if eventually
it may turn out the customer misunderstood how to use the product or was really
looking for a new feature. If a potential customer needs to extend his trial period,
extend it – don’t tell him he outstayed his welcome and should
be happy he got 30 days trial in the first place
. If a customer complains, assume
that his complaint has merit and investigate what you can do to solve it.

Your mileage may vary, but i think we at RemObjects will stick with the "the
customer is always right" approach (over the "the customer should be happy
we’re even talking to him" one) for now…

As a side note, the subway station Alexanderplatz here in Berlin currently shows
an art exhibition of an odd kind in place of the usual advertisement banners along
the rails. All the posters feature black on white phrases of common marketing and
business wisdoms from accredited sources – the posters look much like taken out
of John Carpenter’s They
Live
(except that you don’t need special glasses to read them) – and the one
i noticed yesterday while going to the movies said: (roughly paraphrased and translated)
"The customer is not an annoying side effect of your business, the customer
is your business. Customer interaction by it’s very nature is not in interruption
of your work, it is the nature of your work and the reason your business
exists."

Food for thought.

marc hoffman

Chief Architect and CEO here at RemObjects Software. Project Manager for Elements and lead developer of Fire, our awesome new development environment for the Mac.

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