customer

Lucas on the point of The Customer Is Always Right

The customer is always right.

We all heard it, especially in the hospitality industry, where there are no “Nos” and the guests are by far closest to being self-proclaimed gods (outside of banking obviously). All knowing. Always having an opinion, and even more, since it is their own opinion it has to be right. If they decide to have two opinions these are both right too. It takes a lot of guts and truly a Machiavellic style of conduct to persuade a strongly opinionated guest in any way; something like explaining to a four year old child it is ok to be Spiderman, but without actually swinging from skyscrapers or the sofa. Another good comparison of explaining to the client they are actually wrong would be an ancient, Roman advisor to emperor Nero, known for his love of art, music, good food and burning down the Rome because it smelled. The advisor explained that in order to convince the Caesar, one must always squeeze a massive and clearly visible compliment into a very small and superficial “no”, obviously handing over the whole decision making power to the emperor/guest. Insulting a sensitive soul of the emperor was usually rewarded by a visit from Praetorian Guards, equalling to a death sentence.

We live in a very tolerant, accepting and forgiving society, everyone is sensitive, everyone can be offended by someone else celebrating a holiday (tut, tut). Cutting through three lanes without indicating at eighty miles per hour can be seen as creative and Barraco is the president of the world. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. Everyone can express it via social media while review websites terrorise and terrify hoteliers and restaurateurs to the point where they would rather offer a complimentary Kobe beef steak than deal with an online troll who cannot be touched, criticised, reasoned with, and as per statistics is going to let all other trolls know about “poor experience”.

The list of complaints we discussed with a venue recently only reinforces the feeling that little has changed since Roman times.
We include the list of the most interesting “issues” below.

  • We could not take the guest’s bags to the bedroom straight away – We did take the bags but the guest had to wait a few minutes.
  • The guest found a hair on the bed – we changed all the linen. Then the guest found another one, so we changed it again. We think it could have been guest’s own hair, but obviously could not prove either way.
  • We had to change the clock in the meeting room to a less reflective one.
  • The flipchart was too tall, so we swapped it.
  • The guest had to go outside to get to the restaurant, but it is still within the same complex.
  • The guest complained that the teabags were unhygienic as they were not individually wrapped. We sourced an alternative.
  • The hot water was too hot.

All these terrifying, horrible and life threatening issues happened during a one day booking for approximately 10 people. Instead of the course contents, the attendees have watched in horror how the organiser’s emotions jumped up and down, finishing with an audible and distinct rant at the management about the venue quality, service etc etc. Obviously, since the training was interrupted by some 7-8 extra breaks when the organiser had to go and release the boiling abundance of neurotransmitters in a bottleneck between amygdala and prefrontal cortex (anger management and emotions controlling parts of the human brain) in a form of half-coherent sentences thrown at random members of staff; there wasn’t that much material covered during the day and the self-fulfilling prophecy fulfilled itself – it was a disaster.

The final of the story was classic, the organiser demanded a full refund and got it. The interesting part was, we knew this venue for its consistency, good, stable standards as well as financial awareness and flexibility. The more interesting part was, that we listened to this client’s rant about the venue (obviously omitting the above bullet points and using general expressions) being so bad, we actually questioned our own knowledge and experience. The best part however was…the client ranting about us, to us, and trying to extort us. This happened after the client completely ignored ALL communication from us, including dates, rates, rooms, locations; literally, if there was any detail vital to holding a meeting/seminar/conference, it was entirely ignored and replaced with the client’s own interpretation. It sounded like this:

TV: we have proposed rates of £38, £45 and £47.
Client: No, I want £40 everywhere.
TV: Yes, but in that location these were the best we could achieve, they are very, very competitive for Central London (!?!)
Client: I didn’t see them.
TV: Right, I believe we have discussed these on the telephone, prior to visiting the venues
Client: Yes, but I want them to be £40, your proposal was very unclear, you should improve your system
TV: How would you improve our system ?
Client: Make sure that individual prices are clear and visible, not only the totals. I was misled to believe the rates were £40 everywhere, I only looked at the totals. (the brief was for 20 people, ideally at £40.00 per person per day)
TV: OK, so the totals were not £800.00 each ?
Client: I don’t know, I don’t have time for checking these and scrolling through all the paperwork, you should improve your system and your proposals (just FYI the proposal is usually 4x A4 pages PDF document, with venue options, pictures, itemised and explained individual prices and totals on the bottom in a separate box)
TV: I thought we have discussed these rates on the telephone and you said they were steep, but doable, obviously you have visited all three venues ?
Client: Yes, but I thought they were all £40, because I only looked at totals, your system doesn’t work, I don’t have time to be looking for information !
TV: OK, these rates are already reduced, I don’t think the venues will be able to do anything else.
Client: Can you tell them I would be paying by debit card on the day ? Surely that should help ?
TV (in their mind only, wishing they have not given up smoking some time ago as it would be a great moment to start): Did you know that a new-born baby giraffe travels about six feet to arrive on the ground ? What are your thoughts on the Middle East process ? Do you think there is a possibility for discovering silicone and not carbon based living organisms in outer space ?….
Client: Unfortunately I will not be able to work with you.
TV: Sorry to hear that…

We have terminated all arrangements with this client, which is unusual for a small company, but the valuable lesson we have learned (again) was – if it sounds impossible, it might actually be impossible to work with someone.

Value your time; you will never get back the energy and nerves. Extra work will cost your company more than the actual revenue achieved. Most importantly, have no doubts, you are not creating a healthy client/business relationship, you are creating complaints, whether you like it or not.

All the best and good luck to all sales people.

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