Marketing Myths – The Customer is Always Right

Welcome to the first edition of our brand new weekly blog series, Marketing Myths. Each week’s installment of Marketing Myths will aim to bust a commonly held belief about marketing. Last week, we busted the “Be More Social” myth.

This week’s myth = The Customer is Always Right

It’s a saying as old as time, or at least as old as commerce. “The customer is always right,” is a phrase so ubiquitous in our culture that even outside the business world, almost everyone has heard it before.

The problem with a phrase like that is that people actually think it’s true. If you hear something often enough, you start to believe it. It’s what some refer to as the Illusory Truth Effect, the tendency to believe information to be correct because we are exposed to it more often.

One CEO whose office I visited had a sign posted on the wall that said, “The customer is almost always wrong, but he doesn’t know it and it’s not our job to tell him.” Maybe a little wordy, but it’s a more accurate representation of the underlying meaning of the phrase we’re all too familiar with.

The problem with thinking the customer is always right is that you end up trying to please everyone. Suddenly, you’re team is spending the majority of their time trying to make a few of the most vocal customers happy. Take the old 80-20 formula and you’ll see that 80% of your time is spent managing 20% of your customers.

Sometimes, it’s okay to fire a customer. The effort is not worth the money they’re paying you. They have unreasonable requests and can’t seem to scrape the money together to pay full price.

Marketers, and the businesses they represent, need to decide what kind of customers are worth targeting. And by process of elimination, what kind of customers should be ignored.

Your products and services are not for everybody. When your entire team knows that, and knows that their job is not to make everybody happy, the work gets much easier.

Stay tuned next week for another myth. If you have a marketing myth you’d like me to bust, add it in the comments below.