Written by Michelle Mott
How many times within your career have you heard, the customer is always right? This is a statement that has been taught both in collegiate institutions as well as amongst leadership in many corporations for decades. The hard truth? The customer is not always right. Grab a drink, have a seat and hear me out on this one.
The Project Scenario
Let me paint a picture for everyone. You start a project in which you have been placed as the “expert” of your craft. It’s not long after starting the project you notice various gaps in a process that is intended to increase time to market, resource efficiencies and realized business value. As part of your analysis, because you’re amazing at what you do, you present these gaps as a risk to the overall success of the project. The customer quickly explains a scenario to you that would marginally close these gaps you have defined. You are now faced with two choices; agree to the marginal solution, because the “Customer is always right” and you’re fearful of ruffling any feathers on the project OR present the customer with an alternative thought process that would possibly challenge the clients mindset despite ultimately enabling significant business value gains for the customer. The answer should ALWAYS be present the customer with not only the gaps but the best solution to achieve value even if it challenges a thought process.
Confidence is Key
If you have ever presented to the customer various gaps and issues without coming to the table with a proposed solution, you’ve essentially already failed at your craft. You’re hired to provide the best industry knowledge and solutions. Come to the table, exude confidence in your abilities and be transparent.
Be Transparent and Challenge with Grace
Having consulted for over 20 years now, grace and balance are both “comes with experience” skill sets. Take my advice; learn these soft skills early on in your career. It’s great to be passionate about your knowledge, but execute it leaving emotions out of it. Equally important is the ability to observe and listen to what your customer says and does without being passive and agreeing with the thought the customer will like you more for just agreeing with them. Many consultants fall victim to either being the bull in a china shop or the pacifier riding the waves to make the customer happy. Don’t be either, be the balance. Offer solutions with style and grace that will provide value to your client while gaining you the respect amongst peers and your industry.
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