Wednesday, November 1, 2017

"The Customer Is Never Wrong - But We Can Be Right Also"

How many times have we heard it said that the customer is always right or that they are never wrong? Can this really be true? Always right? Never wrong? Never? Judging from our personal experiences with merchants and customer service departments, we probably have a different opinion of this truism. So, let's dig a little deeper.

On the on hand, the concept is true. The customer is always right - in what they think they want, in how a planned purchase might impact them, in their ability to engage us and help provide a livelihood for us, and in how they perceive or interpret the value proposition we are offering them. They start out being right, but that doesn't mean we are wrong - it's not a total sum game where one party is totally right and the other one is totally wrong, misinformed, or mistaken. When we are the ones coming up short in the selling relationship, we elaborate on our position, get them to explore their opinion, and offer some evidence from our side to persuade them differently. We don't argue. We persuade.

We may not be successful in convincing them of the value of what we offer, in our pricing or warranty philosophy, or the claims we are making for what we offer. We may not be able to meet their demands. That doesn't mean they are wrong for holding those beliefs, but it doesn't mean that we are either. Again, it's not an all-or-nothing situation.

The customer or client also is right in terms of the respect we owe them. Even if their logic or product information is flawed, they still are the customer and a potential source of revenue for our business. Let's be careful about turning that away just because we think they are misinformed, too demanding, or unrealistic. There may be a way to achieve a reasonable middle ground.

When we are talking about aging in place solutions, the customer or client may have a budget that is unrealistically low for the type or amount of work they need to be done. They may accept some of what we suggest but decline others. This could from several factors - not being current on prices, not having done such a remodel in recent history (or ever), not factoring in profit or overhead from installation and only looking at prices of products they have seen online or in showrooms, or thinking that regardless of what the service is we are being asked to perform that they can get it done by a friend, relative, or competitor for less money.

Selling our services and providing them for our clients is not meant to be adversarial. They are right to expect that we will deliver what we say, when we say, and in the manner that is described in our job scope. They are right to expect that will respect them and their home and their personal property while we are guests in their home. They may not be able to dictate the exact terms of the project because they are unaware of all that goes into it, but they certainly can express themselves about what they want and what they are willing to pay.

It's not that the customer always gets it right, but we have to display the sensitivity to their needs and feelings that we can respect their viewpoint, understand why they hold certain opinions, explain our stance, and achieve common ground to complete the assignment. When that is not possible, we accept the fact that the customer was right in what they felt they wanted and that they believed we could not meet their needs. It doesn't mean that we were wrong, but we will watch them walk away.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.