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The Customer is NOT Always Right!

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    The Customer is NOT Always Right!

    In world of business, the age-old adage “the customer is always right” has served as a guiding principle in the realm of customer service. However, a deeper examination shows a completely different reality. The idea that consumers know what they want is called into question by the confusing choices that businesses make.

    Consider the curious case of two competing gas stations positioned right next to each other or the clustering of fast-food giants like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s on the same street. At first glance, these decisions might seem counterintuitive, prompting us to question the rationale behind such choices. However, as we examine these situations, a theme becomes apparent: data. Behind seemingly illogical decisions lies a wealth of information, guiding corporations in directions that might not immediately align with public perception.

    A compelling example arises from the world of television, where a new show faced backlash due to the inclusion of a laugh track. Social media platforms buzzed with disapproval, prompting questions about the producers’ decision-making. However, the revelation that data-driven decisions supported the use of the laugh track adds a layer of complexity.

    A viral TikTok video further dissects this phenomenon, highlighting the paradox where customer aversion might not align with their actual enjoyment, underscoring the intricacies of interpreting consumer preferences accurately.

    You can watch the video here.

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    This brings us to a critical realization: customers often have limited insight into their true desires.The common mantra that “the customer is always right” is more of a customer service slogan than an absolute truth.

    In reality, customers might not possess the depth of knowledge about a product or service that industry professionals do. The responsibility then falls on the experts to guide them toward what is genuinely best for their needs.

    In extreme cases, customers might actively resist what is in their best interest, reminiscent of a 1900 anti-electricity cartoon that humorously illustrates resistance to progress. 

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    A reporter from Popular Science asked Jobs what type of market research he had done. Jobs responded by scoffing,

    Did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research before he invented the telephone?

    It sounds like even the great Steve Jobs came to the same realization I did… Customers don’t know what they want.

    The key is that consumers are rarely the first to forecast improvements that they haven’t used previously. This viewpoint emphasises how important it is for industry professionals to imagine and introduce new products to customers.

    This paradigm shift is particularly relevant in our industry, as demonstrated by the evolution of customer preferences surrounding booth experiences. Notably, customers did not explicitly ask for iPad booths; they simply desired social sharing capabilities. Similarly, the introduction of virtual booths initially faced skepticism, with people deeming the concept as “stupid.” However, several businesses focusing exclusively on virtual experiences are now more profitable than ever.

    This underscores the importance of industry professionals staying attuned to emerging trends. Whether through attending events like PBX, engaging in online forums, or subscribing to industry reports like The Booth Report, staying informed is key. As experts, our role is to identify offerings that can enhance our customers’ experiences, sometimes before they realize these needs themselves.

    Failure to embrace innovation and adapt to evolving trends can lead to a cycle where businesses compete solely on price, offering the same services year after year. Steve Jobs’ wisdom becomes particularly pertinent here — customer feedback serves as a “gut check” or validation that we’re on the right track, but it should not be the sole driving force.


    When it comes to actually knowing what customers want, the commonly held belief that “the customer is always right” is inadequate. Examples from the real world, such as TV series and developments unique to a given business, demonstrate that consumers might not always express their preferences clearly.

    As experts in the field, we are essential in pointing clients in the direction of solutions they might not have thought of on their own. Although customer feedback is a useful source of information, industry experts’ insights frequently lead to significant developments instead of suggestions from customers. It’s essential to keep informed, look for new chances, and avoid stagnation if you want to be at the forefront of your field.

    Steve Jobs’s observation sums it up best: we have an obligation to reveal products that improve the lives of our consumers, but they can offer input on what they see. We can take the lead in influencing consumer experiences by breaking free from the yearly cycle of providing the same thing, which eventually guarantees long-term success in a market that is always changing.

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