Monday, January 21, 2008

The Customer Is Always Right…

Step One

…is such a flawed statement. It’s the kind of phrase I can only suspect that some deceptive salesman concocted in the early days of American hubris. It reeks of that complete insincerity, which ultimately only says, “I’ll say anything, as long as you buy it.”

Our culture (inappropriately) feels so starved for a sensation of control, that we’ve come to love this phrase, regardless of the fact that deep down we know it is a complete and utter fallacy.

This is an awesome repost that's always nice to re-read. Big thanks to Eric Karjaluoto over at: Smash Lab.

Or, you can skip it and do yourself a favor by keeping this one thing in mind:

The idea and end result for the client has to remain your singular focus.

I choose to work with suppliers and partners who argue with me when I’m wrong. I would certainly prefer to be proven incorrect, as opposed to being erroneously lauded for my oversights or lack of knowledge. Put simply, if we care at all about the welfare of our clients, it is our duty to tell them the truth, even if it means upsetting them, or losing their business. It is both responsible and ethical.

When you finally start to say “no” to client requests which you believe to be misguided, it almost becomes hard to imagine doing it any other way.

Two Types of Clients

There seem to be two distinctly different types of clients. The first looks to you for your insights and professionalism. They clearly articulate their needs and ask you to direct the creative process, acknowledging that you are the professional in your field. These are responsible clients, and we have learned to count your blessings for these ones; likewise, we take their contributions seriously, as they are generally valuable and inform our work. These clients often seem to be quite successful. They find good talent, manage well, and get out of the way when their knowledge is not as strong as another’s, on a particular topic.

The second is the type of client who will make you question why you ever got in to the business. They will not respect your profession or knowledge. These are the kind of clients who say “I just want to sit next to you and tell you what to do. I know what’s good when I see it, but I just don’t know the programs.”

After over 15 years of dedicating every moment I have to this practice, and selectively choosing to bring incredibly talented designers to our studio, I feel no compunction to press buttons mindlessly while a wayward client exorcises their need to do something “kind of neat.”

These clients are hard to say “no” to. When you do, they will remind you that they have paid you substantially, and as such, you are indebted to do as told. The implied message here is “We’re paying you big, so bend over.” When a client sees the people in our firm as software operators, I politely suggest they work with other designers. I’d encourage anyone to do the same. Believe me, you sleep way, way better at night as a result.

Good clients will respect you for your principles, and for fighting for what you believe is in their best interest. Our friend, and client, Mishtu (perhaps the smartest person I know) often laughs about our first meetings. He jokes about how brash we initially seemed when we told him that he couldn’t do certain things, without damaging what he was trying to accomplish. That being said, his company’s interests were always central in our suggestions. As such, he has come to see our positions less as bravado, or “being difficult”, and more as us acting in his best interest.


Read the whole thing over here: Always Right.

That's Right!


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