For some context, I grew up in a retail store where we would have hundreds—and eventually thousands—of people come through the store every day to buy product. Transaction after transaction, I heard the phrase “the customer is always right.” I also heard it on the news and television and who the heck knows where else. Oddly, it’s a motto that my dad never imposed on me, but I slowly understood what it meant and it’s something that I’ve always believed in. It was a mantra that became the backbone for Wine Library’s growth.
Even when I had a customer who was irrational, unprofitable, or downright emotionally difficult, there was something that was inside of my gut and my DNA that never let me waiver from “the customer is always right.” It’s an attitude that I practiced and it’s a belief that I thought was pretty commonplace in the sales world.
The last few years of growing Vaynermedia, I have observed a behavior that has really taken me aback. I have seen it with some of my employees (luckily only a few), other agency partners, platform partners, representatives from the Facebooks and Twitters of the world, television media buyers and essentially the entire ecosystem of the agencies that service the biggest brands; there is an enormous amount of complaining about the customer. These complaints about the client range from “unfair deadlines,” to “too many requests,” to “emotional swings,” to “always changing their minds.” And these are just a few.
I find this fascinating because as a client service provider, whether you’re the 600-plus digital agencies with Fortune 500 clients or you are selling a bottle of wine to a local customer, you are more than capable of firing your customer. Yes, firing.
What I mean by this is that the customer is always right as long as you expect and want their money. If you don’t care about their money or their business, then the customer can absolutely be wrong. For example, I’ve fired clients when it’s negatively affected the people who are my “family” (my company), which I value more than the client itself.
However, if you’re asking someone to pay you money that you want, they have the right to put demands on your time and resources and have you pander to them. You’re also more than welcome to not accept those terms. But, accepting those terms and then crying about it has become a massive vulnerability in the B2B space.
I’m writing this article very simply for two sets of people: (1) for the seven to eight employees at VaynerMedia, who I think cry too much about customer requests and don’t realize there are 50 better ways to handle the situation. You’re more resourceful than that.
(2) For the rest of you who consume this article, you are allowed to not do business with anyone you don’t want to, especially if the person’s demands are not worth your time and effort. If you do this, realize that you’ll have to deal with the ramifications of what might happen in return.
You have to think hard about it. Sometimes there’s value in retaining a client or customer and you just have to overlook that one difficult project or sale.
Before you complain, remember that the one who pays has the leverage.
Image Credit: CC by Didriks