One of the hot marketing topics right now is the customer experience.  We talk about giving the customer a great in-store or online experience. So here’s a tip for all businesses out there – if you want to make the customer experience poor then treat the customer as if they are wrong.  If you want to give the customer a great experience and improve the experiences for all your customers then assume what the customer is saying is true then listen up and act.

I am absolutely astounded at how many businesses don’t listen to what their customers are trying to communicate.  This happens a lot when the customer says something that the business owner doesn’t want to hear.  For example a chef who owns a restaurant may not want to hear that the customer thought the food was too salty.  But if the customer thought it was too salty then to that customer it was too salty.  To take a stand and tell the customer that they have got it wrong and that you know more about their taste buds than them will not end well.  Yet this still happens. I am curious why. After all as businesses can we be that confident that we provide excellent customer service and products for all customers at all times?  I like to think that my online shop is fully functioning at all times but occasionally after a software update there may be a glitch.  How do I usually find this out?  From a customer.  If I chose to ignore what the customer was saying or make an assumption that the customer can’t use a computer I miss out on the valuable feedback and the opportunity to fix the problem before it effects more customers and therefore sales.

Today I had a bit of a weird customer experience. I was putting through a phone order to a regular supplier.  I have been using this supplier for a number of years and I mentioned that I found it strange that they are using a promotion spend over this amount to get a packet of lollies – when there always use to be a packet of lollies with every order.  I explained that I haven’t received lollies with my order for about two years.  I was told by the business “a packet of jelly beans goes out with every order”.  I was surprised to hear that. I again stated that I haven’t received lollies with my last couple of orders.  I also mentioned at that stage that as a marketing strategist I am always looking at these things and thought it was an effective tactic.

Now at this point the business had two clear choices.  One, they could believe the customer and listen to what the customer was saying even though it didn’t match their experience of how things work or two, they could assume the customer was wrong because it wasn’t in line with their experience.  The danger with making the assumption that the customer is wrong is that you miss the opportunity to learn what the real customer experience is.  Perhaps more concerning than that, you could alienate and annoy the customer.  Given the choice I would always assume the customer is right and learn from what they are saying.

My supplier had two choices as well. Option one. They could have heard what I was saying and believed me and then investigated why their lollies with every order had glitched.  This was not the option they took instead they took the second option of  inferring I (as the customer) had made a mistake.  The supplier kept saying every order gets a packet of lollies.  I replied I didn’t receive them.  I actually had to add – “why would I make this up?”.  It felt as though it was my word against his and I couldn’t quite understand why he was being so defensive and unwilling to believe my experience as the customer.  Did he just not want to hear that a system wasn’t working?  Did he just not want to hear it today?  I truly can’t answer that.  I will however will be eagerly awaiting my next delivery to see if it does indeed come with jelly beans.

So the take home message is when it comes to the customer experience the customer is always right.  It is their experience.  Only they can tell you what it was like.  If you want to be competitive and hang on to customers you better be listening.