The customer is always right. How dumb were we to follow this mantra? I think most of us in business can explain what this philosophy was intended to be, but have all witnessed the unintended consequences. The broken relationship between buyers and sellers was created during the, “customer is always right”, age of business.  Business historians will look back and write about how foolish this was and the mess we made of business during this period. We chased short term gains and created long term disasters!

We intended to improve customer service by pleasing the buyer.  Instead we raise spoiled consumers who have no loyalty, don’t trust businesses or salespeople and reduced business to the price is right!  We talk about customer satisfaction and spend millions on surveys and customer retention programs while our intentions continue to be to make new customers. In this age of business we make sales, not relationships with consumers that result in long term customer relationships and business growth.

I know of a major retailer whose sales forces motto became, “If you buy from us once, you’ll never buy from us again…next prospect please.” After several financially successful years they went broke.  This is the unintended result of focusing on sales and not making customers at its worst.  This is the attitude that comes from the customer is always right.  Do whatever it takes to make sales.  Just win baby!  Just Do It!

Another unintended result during this process is that employees don’t trust their company.  They were made to be wrong all the time.  The unintended consequence of, someone is always right, is that someone has to always be wrong.

Customers first, people first and business growth and profits will follow!

I knew an uneducated man, a high school drop-out, who after many years ended up owning a car wash.  He left for lunch one day and left his son in charge.  When he returned from lunch he found his son at the booth taking new customers’ money.  The line of cars to wash grew longer.  They seemed busy with lots of new customers and the son was happy.  The son felt good as he talked with the people waiting to get their cars washed, and the line continued to grow. The father took the son aside and explained that anyone can take the money for new customers but the most important part of this business was the perfectly washed cars that kept customers coming back.  He made the point to his son to stay focused getting the cars washed and keeping the line moving. I said he was uneducated, I didn’t say he wasn’t smart.  The memory of this event comes to mind even when I am working with multimillion dollar companies. The premise works for all businesses. Make customers more important than new sales and your business will grow.

It is way past time for change.  Business is at a critical tipping point.  If you are reading this you can make a difference. It is time to change the game of business and get the intended result by changing your intentions.

We may not experience an economy that will allow us to be successful in spite of ourselves as the last one did. How much better prepared would you be for the next rainy day in business if you were protected by loyal customers?

By Mike Moore

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