This is one of the most important lessons you can learn in business: Every business must have customers. If you take away the customers from your local dry cleaner, or the car dealership, or General Motors, then they have no business.
If you can only have one skill in business, learning how to effectively work with your customers is the one to have.
While there is a lot of truth to the old adage, “The Customer is Always Right,” in my experience, the customer is NOT always right. A customer who screams at you in front of other customers is not likely to win you over. I wouldn’t want him or her in my place of business. Likewise, when I sell real estate to investors I do not negotiate price. A potential investor who wants a discount is almost certainly right—for him or herself, but not for me. After all, almost everyone wants a bargain. So how do I please my customers? I price fairly and I seek to provide outstanding service. I explain that a lower price would either lead to a reduction in my level of service or a financial loss, which might eventually put me out of business.
So let’s add some nuance to this old adage. The Customer is NOT Always Right, but the Customer is the Customer, and you must always keep their needs and desires in mind for your business to thrive. Jean de La Fontaine wrote in 1668, “We heed no instincts but our own.” I agree. That is our strong tendency. But your own instincts might put you out of business more quickly than an unpaid payroll tax.
To illustrate my point, suppose I were to open a restaurant and established the menu solely around my own preferences. I might open a sandwich shop where I only served peanut butter and jam on sourdough French bread or tuna salad on rye. That’s it. And because I like to drink water I might serve water as the only beverage. How long do you think my restaurant would remain open?
I would probably lose money every single day until my original cash stake ran out and then I would go out of business. The Customer is the Customer. I have to please the customer with my location, product, and service. I once dined in a French restaurant, which was quite pleasant until the owner gave me attitude when I asked him for ketchup. As I said, I dined there once.
The only way to succeed in business is to please the customer. When you please the customer, you please yourself by being successful in terms of sales and profit.
There are other concerns you should consider before you open a restaurant, or any other business, of your own. But always consider your potential customers first. Without customers you have no business.
The Customer is the Customer.