Should you always listen to your customer?

13th Oct 2016
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“Customer Is King.”

Almost all the companies know the worth of this line and how critical can it be for their growth. Even if they don't, social media has changed the metrics and enabled customers to raise their voices. It's become almost impossible for businesses, especially those operating in the service sector, to avoid customers and still manage to grow.

This situation has given birth to an important question – is it right to listen to your customers, always? Technically, it's the right approach, and businesses should hear customers out in order to win their trust. However, that may not always be the right step. Here's why:

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Customers taking return policies for granted 

In an attempt to win customer trust and serve them effectively, all the major e-commerce companies introduced home delivery of products bought online. This allowed customers to receive their favorite products at their homes or offices.

It's one of those game-changing steps that helped companies like Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal turn into billion dollar empires. However, as the time passed few cases came into light in which customers tried to cheat these e-commerce companies. According to reports, whenever products were delivered to their homes, these buyers would intentionally raise queries regarding product replacement. When these companies sent their executives to collect the product, the buyers would replace the first product with an existing one.

Since major e-commerce companies ship tens of thousands of products every day, tracking each and every unethical practice is tough and time-consuming. Besides, they receive many legitimate replacement requests as well, and turning down all queries may spoil the entire business model. Many customers try to exploit this loophole for their benefits.

Customers using social media to spoil a brand's image

You can review any hotel or guest house on sites like Trip Advisor, Goibibo and MakeMyTrip. The marketing staff of most hotels keeps a close eye on these reviews and takes into account the suggestions to improve overall services and customer experience. Just like these review sites, you can communicate with most brands on Twitter and Facebook.

These examples show how social media empowers customers and help them get heard. However, many times customers misuse this opportunity to spoil a brand's image for no legitimate reason. This Business Insider Report shows how social media can backfire at times.

We’re not suggesting that customers are always at fault or that no company ever tries to cheat customers. But at the end, you as a business owner will have to find a perfect way to serve your customers without being taken for a ride.

What's the solution?

Start with putting better customer research policies in place. A survey won't always be able to give you honest and accurate results. Rather, you can initiate a focus group that receives privileged benefits to take part in early product launches and service announcements. Don't misunderstand the objective of the focus group with branding (which most businesses do). Ask the test-audience to provide you with honest feedback about your product or service even before it's officially launched. Based on the inputs, you can draw a vague conclusion about how mass audience will react to it, and proceed further accordingly.

Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted they would have asked for a faster horse.”

Focus on building a customer-oriented business, not a customer-led business. Being informed by customer expectations is entirely different from being led by them. While the first can help you transform your business into an empire just like Apple or Ford, the second point can ruin it completely.

So, try to keep in touch with your customers on different platforms. Ask your market research team to keep a close eye on their preferences and use their honest inputs to improve your products and services.

Learn from your customers, but don't get duped.

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