The Customer is Always Right, But Not With Everything
You’ve heard the phrase “The customer is always right” before. I think you’ll find an equal amount of articles online saying that that sentiment is still and always true vs the fact that the customer doesn’t know what’s best for them and they’re not right. (You’ll even hear stories about how some “great” companies like Apple ignore the customer desire and that’s how they became successful.) But they’re not really digging further into the customer relationship.
The customer is always right - with some things. You have to look into what the customer is actually saying and dissect it. Let me explain:
The customer’s concerns are always valid - whether they are or not. The fact is, they feel like they have a valid concern, so it requires that you have empathy and deal with that concern. Perhaps you know what they’re concerned about will not have any effect on them - but that doesn’t mean that you should just ignore or reject this concern. You need to agree with them - showing them that they are right in bringing this concern to you - and then explain it with empathy and respect.
The customer requests are always useful - whether they are or not. Remember, the customer is your customer because they have a successful business. So, as much of an expert you are at your narrow product or offering, they have a much wider view of their entire business and the needs that accompany that. They may have requests that don’t always make sense - but that’s an opening for you to learn more about their business. Treat their requests with intrigue - as a way to dig further into the business needs and goals and determine how you can help them. Perhaps the way they described their needs aren’t right, but it is a key indicator that there is a problem you can solve. And when you can solve problems for your customer, that’s how you gain their trust, solidify your business and develop a more profitable relationship.
The customer’s solutions are always the way to do it - except that they’re most likely not. Often times, the customer will come up with a problem and then present you with a solution. They might even feel strongly that their solution is the way to go. Your first reaction might be to reject the whole premise because their solution doesn’t match your way of doing things. Instead, you need to read between the lines on their solution - and see if it addresses the problem. More often than not, a customer tries to give you a solution because that’s how they expect to be dealt with themselves. (You’ve heard that old saying - don’t go to your boss with problems, bring solutions as well.) They might not feel they can come to you with just a problem. But either way, you can now synthesize the real problem from their problem declaration and solution. To summarize this, it’s not that their solution is the way to solve it - think of it as just another building block in the actual definition of the problem.
The customer is always right. But, that doesn’t mean you blindly follow their concerns or implement their solutions. What’s right here is that they have an issue that you need to solve - whether that be from an actual feature fix or just an explanation (or documentation).