The customer is always right. You must have heard of it a dozen times. Companies preach this dictum to employees. We are willing to accept it as true until we meet our customers. Customers are people. And people are not always right.
Now, my customers are not the same as most customers. So, I will share my stories. Then, you can share yours in the comment section below.
My intention is not to prove that the dictum “customer is always right” is wrong. You know that already.
I am guessing that this dictum came from the idea that the customer is king (or queen). And if that were true, you know that the king always has the last word. The words of the king become the law.
It is a good thing that we no longer live in a world where leaders are kings. But a lot of people still want to have kings. That’s maybe why they made customers their new kings.
I intend to share with you what we can do to be happy serving our customers. But as promised, I will tell you the customers that I had.
Let me start with prospective customers.
I was invited by Roxanne, the purchasing manager, to meet his boss Dino for a meeting at their office in Ortigas. She told me that their company is a start-up and they have 12 people they want me to train in customer service and leadership. She said that her boss was impressed by the strategies I shared on my blog and he wants to learn more from me.
We set the meeting at 9 in the morning.
I arrived at the building 45 minutes before the meeting. I am a typical Filipino. I left home very early so I won’t be late. Filipino time, eh. So stayed at 7-Eleven until 11:40 before I went up.
From the glass door, I saw that the lady at the front desk was having a phone conversation. She saw that I was outside when I waved my hand at her. I thought she would let me in. But I stood there for five minutes before I pressed the silver button.
“Open sesame”, I said.
The door opened.
She motioned that I sit on the couch. I sat and I waited until she was done.
It was already 9 in the morning. I sent a text message to Roanne to inform her.
“I am already here”.
I told Mary Ann, the lady at the front desk, that I had an appointment with Dino at 9 in the morning. She made a call. Then, she told me to wait since the boss was still in a meeting. Fifteen minutes slowly passed.
“Miss, can you please find out if Dino is already free?”
“Please wait. Are you applying for a job?” That’s the first time she spoke to me and asked for my purpose.
“I am here to help your company improve customer service,” I said.
I sat again. Then sent another text message to Roxanne. She responded that they had been waiting for me for 15 minutes. So, she went out.
“Sorry for the misunderstanding,” she said.
The meeting went well. Dino was very much interested to pursue a program that will help all employees improve customer experience and for six supervisors to improve their leadership. After the meeting, he stood up and accompanied me to the elevator.
“It is an honor to meet you, sir,” he said.
We met three more times. We were not able to work together because they had to work on new projects first. Six months after, I learned that Roxanne left the company. Then, I have not heard anything from the company again. I wished it succeed because the CEO was a very kind person.
But I won’t forget the experience with Mary Ann. It was not the first time. I met many customers like Mary Ann who taught that they are entitled to make me wait at the lobby.
I met many customers like Dino who want employees to believe that consultants are partners.
Most often, I got the craziest experiences when companies needed training in customer service. So, I understood. I always realized that those who needed customer service training do not know they needed one.
I had customers whom I decided not to serve again.
One customer is a company known for optical, imaging, and industrial products. We agreed to do business at our first meeting, which was two months before the team-building event.
It took us ten more meetings because they kept on changing their programs. Some meetings are just for ten minutes, though a taxi ride to the place often takes me two hours. No, I don’t want long meetings. But they know where I was coming from every time I met them.
Online conference via Skype was already available.
Our agreement was for them to pay fifty percent downpayment thirty days before the event.
There were 350 participants. And since the program was customized to their needs, that means we needed to buy new props and game materials. They also require 25 facilitators. Potential profit was getting thinner as we approached the event date. But I had already invested time and money.
The downpayment was not made. I was told that since their process was global, it was taking much time. But the head promised that we would get paid, in full, on the day of the team building. She sent a formal email as a promissory note.
I was sure that other team-building facilitators can still accept them as clients. But she said that she wanted us to work with them. Because I want to be associated with a global accompany like theirs, I decided to proceed. Anyway, they will pay in full on the team building day.
The day of the team building came. It was great. Everyone on my team was tired. But we were happy to hear that all the participants had a great team-building experience.
We started even without the promised full payment. I heard of consultants who won’t proceed unless they get paid first. But I don’t like doing business that way. Much has been invested by this company. I won’t ruin the day for everyone.
My staff was promised that the check will be issued at the end of the day. We waited. But the check never came.
On our way home, my staff shared with me what she was told.
“Your company should be happy that you are doing this with a big company like ours. If you want to work with big companies, you must get used to getting late payments.”
I was flabbergasted.
I did not know what to say. That person who uttered those words was very nice to me. She made promises which I continued to believe though she had already broken the first one.
I already spent much and I was going to pay all the on-call facilitators. The transport company was waiting for payment too. I paid them all on that day.
And because of constant follow-up, my company got paid in full after three months.
It has not been the first time.
When I was starting, a company that owed me 10,000 pesos made me go to their company three times before I could collect my money.
A local government took 12 months to complete their payments as they needed to change the contract after the training programs were delivered.
A semi-conductor company has not paid me and I stopped making follow-ups after two years.
A famous resort in Bataan has not paid a single centavo for the three customer service training we conducted for them. I was told that the company changed its system.
I have read many books that pontificate the dictum that customer is king. So, when I was starting I made up my mind that all of these are part of serving customers.
When I was starting, one of ten customers gave me 100% of the headaches.
But I no longer have these customers today.
I fired customers who made my life difficult. I decided not to do any business with them.
I still work with big companies but only with those whose people have a healthy mindset about consultants and vendors.
Today, I do not see customers as kings; I am their partner. I am an advisor.
With my help, they can clarify their problems. With my help, they find and create new solutions. Without someone like me, they will continue having their problems. What I am saying is that my worth is greater than my professional fees. My clients get more when they partner with me.
I am not a servant to King Customer.
The customer is not always right. That is why they need an advisor, a trainer, or a speaker like me. I can work with them with the utmost respect and give them my best without having to please them. I am a business partner and advisor.
When they are wrong, I must tell my customers. When they are right, I must help them too.