STEWART WOODRUFF: Unhappy customers are best customers

10 Feb, 14

Owner of MBK Studio, Stewart Woodruff explains why unhappy customers are greatest source of learning

From a very early age, we were continually advised by our peers that we must learn from our mistakes. We soon find that making mistakes can cause us upset, so we try to avoid them. It’s all part of growing up, with sayings like ‘you won’t do that again in a hurry’ and ‘once bitten twice shy’ acting as early lessons in life. However, we don’t seem to carry forward these life lessons when we embark into business.

All our customers provide us with valuable insights about our business, good and bad. When you complete the sales process with a customer and everything went well you need to clone the whole process, so that you can do it again and again. However, when the process fails you have to find out why it failed, at what stage and you have to amend your process to ensure it doesn’t happen again. That’s when you learn the most. And this is where learning from your mistakes becomes crucial.

Choose customers carefully 

But let’s not believe that every customer is a customer worth having. Recognising which customers are going to benefit your business is one of the most important lessons you will ever learn. There are needy customers who will demand too much of your time and who will bring little benefit to your company despite your best attempts to please them. They often provide the smallest part of your profit and aren’t good for business. But there are clients who really will blossom if you are attentive and make sure that you do everything possible to engage with them and make their purchasing experience as enjoyable as possible. Customers who you have a clear understanding of their requirements and who trust you benefit from the extra effort. Their problems are easily solved and they are good for your business. The difficulty is trying to ascertain which is which.

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Avoid the needy

Maybe we can spot some of these customers; those you wished you had never taken on. They haggle over price, have had many quotes and know all about the industry you are in. You chase the order, under the impression that you can convert them into loyal customers, and yet you fail. You spend far too much time on them and end up making too little profit. You will never make them completely happy. Then, along comes another client with the same warning signs but you still chase the order. What happened to your life lesson about learning from mistakes? Maybe a better idea would be to increase the price to ensure if they choose you, it is worthwhile or they can go elsewhere? You cannot please everybody all the time in either life or in business.