“The customer is always right!” You’ve probably heard this before -- either as a chirpy mantra from a people-pleasing business owner, or as an indignant argument from an angry customer.
But regardless of where you’ve heard it, it’s not true.
There’s a scary trend of business owners bending over backwards to please their customers at all costs. You might be thinking, “What’s so scary about that? That’s just good customer service, right?” The problem is, as a business owner, you have a lot of power. If a customer complains, you can bend a rule here or break a policy there to make them happy. You can offer discounts and refunds and gifts and goodwill gestures. Heck, you can work for free out of the goodness of your heart, simply because you believe everyone deserves beautiful photos.
But those little concessions add up. At best, they’ll stress you out. At worst, they’ll eat away at your income. And when you’re burnt out or failing to make ends meet, you’re not really serving anyone. A daunting percentage of businesses don’t make it to the five-year mark. (Some stats say 50 percent, others say 90 percent; either way, it sucks.) If you want yours to survive, you need to create sustainable policies -- the kind that help your business grow rather than chipping away at its foundation. And “the customer is always right” isn’t a sustainable policy.
So when you have an unhappy customer (it happens, no matter how awesome you are!) here are a few questions to ask yourself before you give in.
1. Is the customer right?
This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to overlook it. You may think, “If I bend on this, they’ll be happy, and they’ll tell their friends how accommodating I was.” But this can come back to bite you -- your willingness to change your policy will likely reinforce their belief that it was a crappy policy in the first place. And they may spread the word to their friends, but do you really want to build a reputation as someone who gives in easily? If you want others to respect your policies, you need to respect them first. And when you believe the customer is always right, you’re not putting much faith in your own policies.
If they’re actually right, consider changing your policy across the board. If they’re wrong, stand firm.
2. Why am I giving this discount?
If a customer complains that your pricing is too high, are they right? Should you offer a discount so you don’t lose their business? The easy answer is no, for a few reasons.
An ideal client is someone within your target market who values your service, not someone who tells you to lower your prices.
You’re not playing with Monopoly money. When you offer a discount, you’re giving up real money, and missing out on the chance to book a full-price session.
It’s not fair to your other customers. If you offer a discount to the squeaky wheel, you’re essentially penalizing the people who truly value you. If you’re not comfortable offering a discount to all your clients, then it’s not a workable price point for you.