To create sustainable success and prosperity in 2016 we must focus on giving the best possible customer experience. However, there are many myths surrounding CX that can be counter-productive.

The first myth I’d like to dismiss is the thinking that ‘the customer is always right’. The customer is not always right, but there is a very, very good reason why:

The customer is not the expert in what you do, you are!

Imagine a customer comes to you with a particular need, but also with their own ideas about how you can help them fulfil that need. For a simple analogy let’s say their car has broken down and they think they know which part needs to be replaced or serviced. Unless your customer has expertise around the mechanics of that car, it is unlikely that they know more than you do about the most effective and efficient way to fix it. Your customer trusts you to use your expertise to help them make an informed decision and guide them to the right solution.

This simple analogy is the same for customers of all businesses. On initial investigation your customer may think that they know which product or service is right for them, but you are the expert, so it’s your responsibility to show them what’s right. This is one of the major cornerstones of customer experience.

Whether or not ‘the customer is always right’ is a subject that frequently comes up for me when recommending awards for businesses, in particular The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise.

Winning a Queen’s Award can be truly game changing for a business, but there is a rigorous entry process with very specific requirements – so it is especially important not to make any assumptions that the customer has picked the right category, the right approach, or even the right year to enter.

It doesn’t matter how ‘right’ the customer thinks they are when they tell me they would like to enter the Queen’s Awards in the International Trade, Innovation, or Sustainable Development category, before we work together I will always undertake a profiling assessment to confirm that this really is the right competition for them. And only once I have all the facts will I recommend the right approach, the right category and the right sub-category.

To make sure I am giving my customers the best experience I ask questions like these:

  • Do they meet or exceed all the criteria?
  • Do they understand which category and sub-category gives them the best chance of winning?
  • Do their financial results shout ‘winner’ or is there a glitch that might hinder their chances?
  • Do they have a real focus that will impress the judges or are there too many distractions?
  • Do they have all their ducks in a row when it comes to evidence and support materials?
  • And ultimately, do they really have what it takes to win?

Sometimes the answer to these questions is no, and then it’s more important than ever for the customer to understand why they are not right. It is vital to continue to give a good customer experience by explaining in detail, and with empathy, why this is not the right competition to enter at this particular time. Instead we can discuss and select an award more suited to their achievements, and more likely to deliver a good outcome.

Assuming ‘the customer is always right’ is not a fast track to creating loyalty, or to giving customers a great experience. It simply short-changes them of the professional expertise they are seeking, devalues your offering, and risks losing them to a competitor who has the courage to challenge their thinking and offer new ideas and solutions.

Instead of focusing on the traditional mantra that ‘the customer is always right’, to progress in business in 2016we must listen to customers’ ideas and opinions, question their preferences and objectives, and add value with our knowledge and expertise.

Focus on the four cornerstones of great customer experience and you can’t go too far wrong:

Trust – telling your customer they are not right may feel hard, but your honesty will be valued.
Responsibility – it is your duty to help your customer understand why they might not be right.
Relationship – advising the customer what is truly right for them will help to build loyalty.
Well-being – helping your customer find the right solution will benefit you both in the long run.

So next time someone tells you ‘the customer is always right’, just remember the cornerstones of customer experience. Your customer will thank you and in the end everyone will be a winner.

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