Business misconception #1 – You want EVERY customer…

You see, the thing is some of them you don’t want. You want the ones who want what your product (that is the obvious part). But as importantly – I would actually argue more importantly in a world where services and Software as a Service are becoming dominant – they have to want the end to end EXPERIENCE you are offering.

The problem with the customer in this TechDirt article is that they wanted a completely different experience than what what Murky Coffee offered. That explains the irate customer and the hullabaloo…

We’re tempted to ask ourselves – Who was right/wrong? But that is the wrong question. The question is:

Is Murky Coffee happy with the business of offering the experience they offer? If the answer is yes they not only have the right but the obligation to tell customers (politely of course) who want a different experience that their patronage is not required.

If they don’t they risk the experience of their core customers.

more after the jump…

My friend Jacob Grier weighs in on a story that’s been getting a ton of attention: some guy went into a DC-area coffee shop called Murky Coffee (where Jacob once worked) and asked for an iced espresso. The barista told him that the shop has a policy against making iced espresso. The barista agreed to give the guy an espresso and a cup of ice so he could ice his own espresso, but a shouting match ensued and the customer wound up leaving a dollar tip with a message that’s not printable in a family blog. The owner of Murky’s Coffee responded here.

At first glance, it seems like if the customer wants his espresso poured over ice, that’s what the customer should get. But Jacob makes an interesting point: Murky’s fastidiousness (or pig-headedness, depending on your perspective) about coffee quality is part of what sets it apart from the run-of-the-mill coffee shops. Murky isn’t just selling coffee, they’re also trying to build up a clientele that takes coffee seriously. This reminds me of a great post Don Marti wrote a couple of years ago called “FUD is good for you.” Marti pointed out that while it’s true that Microsoft’s disinformation about free software could actually drive away some potential customers from free software, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. These are, after all, likely to be the least technically-savvy customers, customers who will consume a disproportionate share of tech support resources and unlikely to be repeat customers. In the long run, the company might find it’s actually more successful because some of its customers were scared away by FUD. I think we can see the same kind of attitude at Apple. For example, Steve Jobs took a lot of heat when he unveiled the iMac in 1998 without a floppy drive — one small part of a broader strategy of giving customers what Jobs thought was good for them rather than what they asked for. That attitude has alienated a lot of potential customers over the years, but it has also produced a lot of repeat customers who are more loyal than the customers of any other computer company. In contrast, the PC vendors that have tried to serve every customer have wound up in a brutally competitive market with razor-thin margins.

[From Sometimes The Customer Is Wrong]

The obligation of the business person is to honestly evaluate the total experience and determine either to:

  1. Change the experience
  2. Tell the customer they should go somewhere else

So sometimes we have to fire customers. It isn’t a sin… and it isn’t bad business. They may want the product – but if they don’t want the total customer experience of buying and using the product they will always be dissatisfied – that is bad business.

One thought on “Business misconception #1 – You want EVERY customer…

  1. Hey Brian, thanks for this post (found you from your comments on the Pulver blog.) I very much agree with what you’re saying here and in my case apply it to writing. Not everybody who reads fiction or my genre or my subgenre is my reader. And trying to cater to every single individual taste ends up creating a bunch of noise that no one can emotionally connect with.

    But if I write what I”m most passionate about (assuming I do it technically well), I will be better served to focus all my energy on the core group of fans/followers and slowly building to that, than the mass “hit and run marketing” most new authors tend to make.


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